Our Lady Mother of Ferguson and All Those Killed by Gun Violence

BY ALEX MIKULICHJuly 27, 2016

I am soul-weary and sickened by all of the violence that afflicts our nation.  What does it mean to practice solidarity in this time of disproportionate violence against people who are black and brown?

As Catholics, no doubt, we decry all forms of violence.  Our faith calls us to love all people and so we denounce violence against police and civilians.

And yet, as Jelani Cobb recently wrote in The New Yorker (July 25),  the “phrase ‘blue lives matter’ expresses a fact in our society” while the phrase “‘black lives matter’ exists as a reminder [and] aspiration.”

The fact is that police lives do matter—perpetrators of violence against police are held accountable.  Most jurisdictions prioritize high levels of funding for police and sheriff offices and work with wide support of citizens.  

Our Lady Mother of Ferguson and All Those Killed by Gun Violence

“Our Lady Mother of Ferguson and All Those Killed by Gun Violence,” created by Mark Dukes. This image was recently posted by Fr. James Martin, S.J., on his Facebook page.

Too often our society excludes, blames, and attacks African Americans, Latin@s and First Americans. This is well documented in every sphere of American life including education, health, housing, economic well-being, jobs, criminal justice, and immigration policy.

As a network of Jesuit institutions, we aspire to practice new depths of humanity in the witness of Jesus Christ.  We express our aspirations in practice, and specifically in the practice of Christian solidarity with people who are despised in society.

Upon the brutal police killing of Philando Castile, I was struck by the presence of Philando’s fiancé Diamond Reynolds as she sat next to Philando as he was shot by police for no good reason.

At the heart of Ignatian solidarity is the practice of real presence to flesh and blood brothers and sisters who are suffering.  Diamond Reynolds practiced, perhaps, the deepest form of courageous presence as she lived-streamed her fiancé’s shooting on social media.

Diamond Reynolds exhibited a depth of presence that reminds me of Mary, Mother of Jesus as she witnessed the crucifixion.  Diamond Reynolds reminds me of the call in the Spiritual Exercises to imagine ourselves at the foot of the Cross with Mary. There at the foot of the Cross I imagine Mary–not stoic as some art depicts her–but passionately weeping with God for her beloved Son.  

How do we hear and feel God’s weeping with Philando Castile’s mother or his beloved Diamond Reynolds who courageously filmed Philando’s execution? Her courageous and passionate witness to Philando and to the world through live-streaming calls us to practice solidarity in the same way and with the same depth of presence.  

God is weeping in traumatized communities of color throughout our land!  God is weeping with police and all victims of violence.

God is weeping in traumatized communities of color throughout our land!  God is weeping with police and all victims of violence.

As a white man speaking to a predominantly white Ignatian network, I wonder: When and how do we weep with brothers and sisters of color before the Cross in our midst?  When and how do we take our brothers and sisters down from the Cross?

James Baldwin’s warning to his nephew in The Fire Next Time rings in my ears:  “White innocence constitutes the crime.” The fact of the matter is that we sustain a system and culture that does not value all lives and that specifically despises Black life as it privileges white life.  

We can practice solidarity by advocating for a comprehensive package of urgent policy solutions informed by data, research, and solidarity.  An example can be found here.

However, we have yet to make accountability to communities of color our way of life.

We need to take up the deeper spiritual work of transforming our own institutions of faith from institutions that acquiesce to the fact of white privilege and power to institutions of real presence in solidarity.

We ought to take this moment as Jesuit institutions to perform an institutional racial examen:  where and how are we accountable to communities and institutions of color?  Where and how are we accountable to predominantly African American, Latino, and First American institutions who work and care for the most traumatized communities in our land?

The question is not rhetorical; rather, it concerns a depth of physical, emotional, spiritual, and moral transformation at the heart of practicing Christian solidarity.

The conditions of the possibility of transformative solidarity concern the level of presence with and for ourselves, Jesus, and the most despised of God’s children in our time and place. Mary, along with Diamond Reynolds and too many others, still weeps in our midst.

2 replies
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    Reynolds-Anthony Harris says:

    Resent events here in Minneapolis let me to share your post today as we remember 9/11 and its impact around the world. Your framing is welcomed as it make a clear case for continued and deep reflection. As a recent member of a Cristo Rey Jesuit High School based in Minneapolis, I believe your wisdom and next steps might include encountering institutional Boards of Directors. Board of Directors /Trustees are the head of many organizations in our education space and the work must start and end with the Board. I would welcome you to reflect on the question of how might a Board as part of ‘the work’ take up this work in ernest.

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