Words Matter: On Cookies and Conversion

BY LUCAS SHARMA, S.J. | September 4, 2017
Sunday’s Readings

In yesterday’s Gospel, we hear Peter reject the prophetic words Jesus offers. In response, Jesus rebukes him, calling him to see what is truly in front of him.

Talking about prejudice and racism is hard. Even when we are able to condemn violent acts like those in Charlottesville, it is easy for us to be like Peter in the story – to see racist people as out there, somewhere far away, and completely unlike us. Like Peter, we are called to look into ourselves to see how we too project, misunderstand, and lack self-awareness.

I see in myself how easy it is to be like Peter. Under the guise of “racism as a thing of the past,” I used to joke that I was an “Oreo” – a person with darker colored skin on the outside but “white” on the inside.

The underlying message was that, because it was easy for me to fit in, it must be easy for all people of color. In a painful conversation with an immigrant friend, she told me that my lack of awareness perpetuated her own feelings of unwelcome in our country.

My seemingly harmless “Oreo” comment contributed to creating an atmosphere in which others did not feel that they “fit” into our society if they did not embrace and replicate white American culture.

My friend invited me to conversion and renewal, to look outside of my own narrow experience to that of others in my community and nation and see how my actions might affect those around me.

Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

  • How might we be invited to continue to empathize with the experience of others who are different?
  • To see how our words and actions cause others to feel unwelcome?
  • How are we invited to build true bridges of racial justice, so that our society will be truly good, pleasing, and perfect?
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