Over the last several weeks, we have seen many images and videos that have caused many of us to be shocked by the inhumanity of humanity. In a nation that so desires to uphold the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we know that such rights are not available to all in their fullness.
Two years ago the Bishops of the United States wrote Open Wide Your Hearts: An Enduring Call to Love (A Pastoral Letter on Racism). They also addressed this issue in 1979 in a letter entitled Brothers and Sisters to Us. In that latter statement we read:
“We do not deny that changes have been made, that laws have been passed, that policies have been implemented. We do not deny that the ugly external features of racism which marred our society have in part been eliminated. But neither can it be denied that too often what has happened has only been a covering over, not a fundamental change. Today the sense of urgency has yielded to an apparent acceptance of the status quo.”
What the Bishops said over 40 years ago, in many respects, is how we have arrived at the present moment. Systemic changes are necessary but, too often, we have been fearful or reluctant to move past the status quo. I like you have a lot to learn in order to be part of the conversation. Recently I began reading The History of Black Catholics in the United States written by Cyprian Davis, OSB and published in 1990. It has opened my eyes to so much and made me realize that their story – as well as the stories of other ethnic groups in the USA – is not well known. To effectively change something we have to know its history, its background, its story. Only then can hearts be moved to change; only then can we hope to bring change that lasts.