Ask a Franciscan

Facing Up to Systemic Racism 

What do I tell the students in my CCD class when they ask me what the Catholic Church says about systemic racism? As a white woman, I am considered by some people to be privileged. I raised two boys by myself and had to work for everything we had. What about the unborn babies who are being killed every day? 

Systemic racism slips under the radar of people who also often pride themselves as being very realistic and practical. They also frequently tell themselves and others, “Well, that’s just the way life is.” These same people usually benefit from a racism they refuse to acknowledge.

I cannot defend every action taken by people opposing systemic racism, but neither can I deny that systemic racism exists. All of us need to keep telling ourselves the truth at deeper and deeper levels, far from the level that protects my feelings from any challenge.

In one way or another, every sin begins with a lie that a person tells himself/herself—or that a group tells itself. The best way to reject blatant or subtle racism is to keep telling ourselves the truth. For Christians, that means the truth as we know it as baptized disciples of Jesus Christ.

So, what should you tell your CCD class? Admit that the Catholic Church has not always named and opposed systemic racism as it should have. Jesus does not accept everything that we would like to call normal. The change will need to be on everyone’s part. The killing of unborn babies is an international disgrace, but that does not cancel the need to name and oppose systemic racism.

Ask a Franciscan in St. Anthony Messenger

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