Racism in America: Separated and unequal

By:

Imagine this. Most state governors order the National Guard in their states onto the streets to stop the destruction of property and risks to innocent lives. The United States Army appears on the scene. Assume that some terrorist plot is exposed and put down. All “outsiders” have gone away. The “thugs” are put down. Calm prevails. Then what?

First, under the U.S. Constitution, every citizen has the right to voice approval, or disapproval, about any matter, and to call political authorities to account.

Second, even when the streets are empty, it is evident that a problem lies deeply inside our society. We have a racial divide. Statistics are compelling. Where is morality in this picture?

The Catholic Church teaches that personal thoughts, or cultural systems, based upon the accident of race, are immoral. Addressing the recent reactions to the violent death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made quite clear this teaching. Fundamental Catholic doctrine is that any human being, and all human beings, without exception or qualification, are the precious children of God, brothers and sisters with the Son of God through the Incarnation, worthy of eternal life, and always uniquely beloved by the Almighty.

Look at the realities of American life. Racial differences are real. Modern life is complex, but, for Catholics, race cannot be dismissed as just one of those things. In nothing else, current circumstances must be questioned, and the sin of racism, often embedded and historic in origin, must be viewed as evil, and every effort be employed to rid this society of it.

So frequently during the past week, after the incident in Minneapolis, officials, observers, interested bystanders and demonstrators themselves declared that the purpose of the demonstrations was to summon public opinion, at least to ask about police brutality and how, and if, such brutality seems to target blacks.

This is fact. History indicates that the law, the courts, political officials and the police all too often have been harsh, to put it mildly, in dealing with African Americans. For example, slavery was not Southern law. It was American law, embedded in the Constitution of the United States and enforced by federal courts and police. Racial segregation was, in the end, federal, specifically permitted by rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, and it was enforced by the police.

Thirty miles from Our Sunday Visitor’s office, in Marion, Indiana, in an event witnessed by people still living, a mob lynched two black men on the public square, while police looked the other way. Lynchings once were common in many places. Entire African American neighborhoods were obliterated and inhabitants massacred by whites in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in Rosewood, Florida. Children of the slaughtered survive today. Many people alive today remember 1948 when federal laws segregated the armed services. The movies “Selma,” released in 2014, “Mississippi Burning,” in 1988, and “Ghosts of Mississippi,” in 1996, depicted actual events. The common denominator was police indifference, or outright complicity and prevalent racism, not always overt, among whites.

Things have changed, in many cases, it is true, but black Americans carry memories of this pattern of history in their minds, and fears in their hearts, nevertheless. Importantly, many Americans see the past in circumstances today in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, several months ago in New Brunswick, Georgia, and now in Minneapolis.

It greatly would help everyone if all Americans understood this history and questioned the present.

Civil unrest based on race erupted in 1968. President Lyndon B. Johnson sent the Army into some cities, but he also saw racism as the basic problem. To propose solutions, he appointed a bipartisan, multi-racial commission, led by then-Gov. Otto Kerner of Illinois.

After an exhaustive study, the commission judged that America is a society “separate(d) and unequal.” Its proposals were dismissed. It is history but uncomfortably relevant today.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Recent

Opening the Word: Resting in Jesus to reveal the Father

Friday, July 3, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley “‘No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son... Read More

Vatican releases new Directory for Catechesis

Wednesday, July 1, 2020
By: Dr. Joseph White The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization today announced the release of the new Directory for Catechesis for... Read More

Supreme Court justices have a history of being unpredictable

Monday, June 29, 2020
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Many were surprised at the U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding gender identity and employment. It was one more occasion... Read More

Opening the Word: The prophet speaks

Friday, June 26, 2020
By:Timothy P. O'Malley It is natural to develop affection for those closest to us. We share communion, made possible through a history of mutual... Read More

Black Catholic leaders say more integration in the Church is possible — if all are willing to do the work

Wednesday, June 24, 2020
By: Brian Fraga When the Church was born at Pentecost, about 3,000 people “from every nation under heaven” were baptized,” St.... Read More

How do we stay hopeful in times of crises? By focusing on God

Monday, June 22, 2020
By: Deacon Larry Oney The year 2020 is turning out to be a year like no other in recent memory. As Catholic Christians, it is not difficult for us... Read More

Opening the Word: Made for God’s presence

Friday, June 19, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley We have undoubtedly heard well-intentioned souls comfort those who have lost a loved one by saying, “Do not worry,... Read More

Why did God create us if we choose evil?

Wednesday, June 17, 2020
By: Msgr. Charles Pope Question: Why has God allowed mankind to continue since Adam in spite of the evil that has prevailed: wars, murders and... Read More

Racism in America: Separated and unequal

Monday, June 15, 2020
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion Imagine this. Most state governors order the National Guard in their states onto the streets to stop the destruction of... Read More

Opening the Word: A Eucharistic teaching

Friday, June 12, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Every couple of years, Pew Research releases a report on Catholic belief related to Eucharistic presence.... Read More