“Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.
This is the law and the prophets.” [Matthew 7:12]
America feels broken to me. As a child who grew up living in different countries while being educated in American schools, the United States was the standard, the ideal. It was the aspiration; a country where democracy flourished and everyone had equal rights…or so I thought.
Thirty years later, I find myself wondering why this country of dreams and opportunities isn’t showing more compassion for the plight of refugees and immigrants, why there are so many black and brown people in jails, why otherwise good, God-loving Americans are blind to the racial inequality that pervades in education, housing, healthcare, lending practices, and in our courts. For me, as it should be for all of us who call America home, it is imperative to remember and reflect on the abundance and generosity of the country that educated me, allowed me to pursue my dreams, and welcomed me as an immigrant. I now need to fight so that all others can have access to the same.
This moral mandate found in today’s Gospel has become my reason to be. I left the classroom after two decades to help develop schools where diversity is valued, and equality is not confused for equity. I sit on the board of Educators for Social Justice, whose mission is “to develop and support socially just, equitable, and sustainable practices in schools and communities.” I now proudly claim my identity as a person of color and use my Hispanic heritage and my ease in navigating white spaces to build bridges among races. I read books that broaden my perspectives; The Hate U Give, The Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, and White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America, currently sit on my nightstand.
I now implore that you do the same. Reflect on the country that welcomed you or your ancestors, open your eyes to its brokenness and begin (or continue) your journey of cultural competence so that you can speak up and fight against the injustices that are closing in around us. We need to find the humanity that connects us to heal what is broken.
Catalina Martinez is an educator and social justice warrior who currently works as Director of Diversity and Inclusion at De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis, Missouri. She taught English in Bogota, Colombia for seven years prior to moving to St. Louis where she taught Spanish and headed the language department at an independent school. She is mother to Sebastian, 17 and holds a B.A. in English from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Educational Leadership and Administration from Maryville University. During her free time, she bakes, practices yoga, and reads.