Some thoughts for those who want to listen.

Edited as of 6/4.

1. I am a black cradle Catholic from several generations of Catholics. Organists, parish council members, composers, ushers, third order religious,  and altar servers. I am your family. I’ve experienced profound joy in my Church, and I’ve been very vocal about that. But today I’m going to be vocal about my pain. Far too often, bringing up my experiences of racism has been met with unreceptive attitudes of all species:

  •  “I’m colorblind”
  • “racism isn’t really still a problem”
  •  “you’re not like other black’re articulate and non-threatening”
  • “you’re probably imagining or exaggerating the nature of that interaction”
  • “so-and-so isn’t actually racist, but well-meaning (as if someone can’t be both)”
  • “why are you bringing up race when it makes everyone so uncomfortable? Don’t be so sensitive!”
  • “can’t we all just be nice to each other and love Jesus because race is irrelevant? Trust in God and his mercy!”

This stuff hurts. I don’t always dwell on it, because if I did, I wouldn’t get much done, and I’d be bitter and annoyed all the time. But it still hurts.

Also, because those statements have some truth to them, and because I don’t particularly enjoy unproductive and futile conversations, I shut up (which is probably, if inadvertently, what these responses are intended to do).  I eventually stop trying to share stories, but rather bury them deep where only Jesus and Mama Mary (and my saint friends!) can see them. It’s a silent burden that you bear, since you know that Jesus in the Eucharist is real... you feel like Peter when he says, “To whom else shall we go?” (John 6:68). And you want to have friends and be liked. But at times it feels like I have to sacrifice my blackness so that people will believe I’m authentically Catholic, or their brand of Catholic. I don’t like to be political, and I don’t like to speak to a wearied audience (former teacher here), but I am speaking out now because it feels like people are finally listening. Actually, they’re actively asking me to share my story.

There are many correct responses to our current situation, so you’ll have to pray about that. I know some of you are freaking out about whether or not to post, make art, be silent, reach out, etc. I can’t really answer that for you, but I can offer a small suggestion. One thing you can do is to make an effort not to say any of the above things in a discussion about race, and pray for the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind. If a BIPOC sister in Christ is opening up to you, she may very well feel terrified while doing so. She may be bracing herself for dismissive comments. Strive to honor her vulnerability.

2. We know you know that racism is evil. What we’re unsure about is whether you believe it really exists, exists to the degree that people say it does, can spot it in yourself and others, and are willing to actively work against it.

3. As a fairly traditional Catholic, I don’t want to have to cite rogue Jesuits or questionably Catholic sources. I cringe at them, too. But many of my admired Trad priests are silent right now. Honestly, that is heartbreaking. It makes me feel emotionally and spiritually orphaned by those I’ve made an effort to revere as Father. I’ve experienced the deep love of Christ in the Eucharist, and God my Father, and at the end of the day, their love is more than enough. At the same time, it helps to know that those who stand in Persona Christi are able to recognize the realities I face and take action. That those who are often willing to “afflict the comfortable” over other matters of morality are willing to take a stand in this one, too.

I’m scared to include this bit, because I don’t want people to think that I don’t love my priests, because I do. But this is a pain point for me. Additionally, I know that a lot of sources that aren’t deemed credible by Trads are the ones making more noise about this, so I felt it might be necessary to play this card.

4. Speaking out against racism doesn’t automatically align you with any political party. It just means your eyes are open. Maybe it feels too snowflake-y or social justice-y. it really?

5. I am not an expert on all of the statistics and research. At the same time, I want to say: before you dismiss racial profiling, systemic racism, or police brutality as a myth invented or exaggerated by the media, remember that while your first exposure to these stories usually comes from the media, a BIPOC’s first exposure to these incidients comes from their own lives, or the experiences of those in our families and communities. While very imperfectly, the media is not telling BIPOCs anything new.

Many different communities are rightfully suspicious of the media and their agenda, but please don’t let that stop you from missing the message. I’ve seen many posts on social media from Catholics that all of the “systemic racism stuff” is a myth. It makes my head and my heart hurt. If you have people in your communities that think this way, I implore you to courageously and charitably challenge them in this thinking. We can’t fight something that we don’t believe exists (you know, how people don’t think Satan is real, so he has that much more power?!?)

6. Please consider that many people very near and dear to my heart have left the Church because of these matters, and it is very hard to convince them that it’s worth coming back. It will take a miracle to bring them back. No, people shouldn’t leave the Church because of insensitive actions, but not everyone is patient. Even God in his infinite mercy has a breaking point, and demands justice (I’m not a theologian– I trust you know what I mean). Souls are at stake. Your own soul is at stake.

7. Learn about segregation in the Church. My own family faced it. Particularly, my grandparents actively campaigned against it. My grandmother, a mother of 15 children, was not made to feel welcome at the Catholic hospital. She had to tell them plainly, “I’m Catholic, so I want my kids to be born at the Catholic hospital.” She should not have had to say that.

Her husband, my grandpa, had to work with local leaders to desegregate the Catholic school system, because as a Catholic, he wanted his kids to go to Catholic school. And even as a postal worker, chose to pay money to send his children to schools where they weren’t exactly wanted. He should not have had to do that.  I could go on.  

I don’t care that it was a different time and place. This is an unfortunate blemish (that’s being charitable) on the history of my Church.

Ok. I’m exhausted now. Whatever responses this will generate...I want to be there and respond to you, but it may take me some time. Please tread lightly. I’m trying to figure out how to balance people’s desire to know who is writing this with my desire for privacy and healthy boundaries. Figuring it out.

Thank you for reading this. It’s already a start. God bless you!

Prayerfully yours in Christ,