George Floyd, may he rest in Peace.
I have been uncomfortable since the death of George Floyd (5.25.20). His death was hard to hear.
Maybe, just maybe that is exactly what was needed, me to be uncomfortable. I have read the Cardinal’s letter, as he called racism a ‘scourge on society’. I have read the word from the Pope “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.” I have heard this my whole life, and I thought that I lived it.
A quote floated across my inbox from Martin Luther King Jr. “Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people: but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people”. Of course, this couldn’t be me?
I am white middle-class woman, I love people, all of them, really, I do. I get teased at the office that everyone who walks in, I say, “Hi, I’m Kate” reaching out a hand to welcome them (before Covid19 that is!) Each of you are God’s handiwork. I believe in with the wholeness of my heart that I am not a racist. Why then is my soul so uncomfortable?
I reached out to an African American friend to see if he had some words of wisdom. Tomie challenged me more than I could imagine.
He says, “It is time for the people of this country to engage in collective self-reflection, if such a feat is possible. As a Catholic, I think that we have tools available to us. Jesus taught us the greatest commandment; love of God and neighbor. In the prayer, the Confiteor, that we recite at the beginning of Mass commemorating the Passion of Jesus Christ, we confess and ask forgiveness for our sins… our thoughts, words, actions and WHAT WE HAVE FAILED TO DO.
In our collective examination of conscious we may find a “blind spot” when it comes to racial inequality…..We cannot simply wash our hands of this matter like Pilot did during the Passion. I don’t pretend to have answers to all societal problems but in attempting to close the racial divide we have to undertake a critical personal examination before declaring, “I’m not racist!” (See my comment above)
Those are my exact words, ‘I am not a racist’! This hit me hard. So, I stopped to engage in this ‘self-reflection’ that my friend called me to. What is it that I have failed to do?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells this out: “The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: “Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.” (CCCNo193)
Tomie challenges me further, he says, ‘The silent majority has looked the other way and said they were not racist because they didn’t see it outside their kitchen window, backyard, the gated community, private/ charter school or Church.”
Is my silence like the rich man who ignored the pleas of the beggar, Lazarus, at his door (Luke 16:19-31)? The rich man who found himself in purgatory for not helping the other. That story does not reveal that the rich man did anything against Lazarus, he certainly didn’t harm him, but he does ignore the human need sitting at his front door. That human need sitting at my front door is every color and race.
I am reminded of my late husband’s life quote from Micah 6:8, “What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
The Catechism reminds us that as Catholics we have a responsibility to fight every injustice towards humanity. To act justly, and to love and to walk, all these are action items. This is not something I ‘failed to do’ but to do, to engage in.
My mind races to the iconic film, Top Gun and Merlin screaming at Maverick, “Engage Maverick engage’. Isn’t it funny how God speaks to us some days?
I am still uncomfortable, but that is part of the humility God seeks in each of us.
Today, I have some small understanding as to why I am so uncomfortable. I have been still.
I may not have a plan, or an ‘answer to all societal problems’ but I do know that I will not be still. That is the lesson of the ‘rich man’ in the scripture, and the lessons from my friend, Tomie.
In today’s Gospel Acclamation we hear , “I give you a new commandment:
love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34) and then in the Gospel reading “go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
And so that is the challenge to each of us, to you and to me. To each of us today… Take a minute and engage in this self-reflection, ‘what is it that you have done and what is it that you have failed to do?” and then, engage in true charity!