Day 7: Within the Reign of God: Creating an Anti-Racist Community and Culture
BY BROTHER ERNEST MILLER, FSC, D. MIN. | March 8, 2022
I find myself in a holy frustration, wrestling with the anguish and despair, the “disjointed elements of reality” our nation and world continue to encounter because of a pandemic within a pandemic: Covid-19 and systemic racism, or more categorically, white body supremacy. Since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, and the serial murders of countless other Black children, women, and men by police and vigilantes, the shouts and the cries against deep-seated racism and white body supremacy testifies to a hunger to end this scourge on our public life.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This petition in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount speaks to one of the most persistent quests of the pilgrim church: to build the reign of God here and now, on earth as it is in heaven.
Many young people and colleagues in my world of Catholic education and beyond are despairing. I hear it. I see it. They are struggling to navigate the violence that lands upon the body from both pandemics. Our phrasing to describe these two interlocking pandemics obscures the visceral experience—the trauma—of this reality.
All our Catholic social teaching phrasing—upholding the life and dignity of each person, solidarity with those impoverished and minoritized by structures of injustice, nurturing the earth and recognizing our interdependence with all God’s creation, our right and responsibility to participate with others in our shared public life—reminds us that Christian discipleship is a call to bind humanity into a single garment, an inescapable network of mutuality.
Listening to Isaiah with our sanctified imagination, the prophet urges us to unleash the transformative faculty of the ethic of love and the ethic of justice.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” If our prayer becomes daily practice, the Spirit of the Living God will move us from confusion and despair to the pathway to mending our hearts and bodies.
- Do you have a sense of how you are a complicit agent in creating systems of racial oppression?
- Drawing on the Catholic social tradition, are you able to uncover the power to imagine yourself as an agent of peace, loving authentically and creating communities of justice?
- Are you on a pathway to becoming an anti-racist, and more specifically, standing against anti-blackness and white body supremacy?
Ernest J. Miller, FSC, D. Min., serves as vice president of mission, diversity, and inclusion at La Salle University. He is a Brother of the Christian Schools, commonly known as the De La Salle Christian Brothers, an international religious order dedicated to the mission field of education and evangelization. He is participating in anti-racist projects of the Lasallian Association of Colleges and Universities.
Today I am going to a high school that really works on diversity and all I could think of was my great-uncle who believed that racism has no place in the society in which we live. His name is Servant of God, Msgr. Bernard J. Quinn and he lived in Brooklyn during the early part of the 1900’s. He took the poor and homeless from Brooklyn out to Wading River on Long Island where he established an orphanage. The children became well-educated and deeper into the kingdom of Gpd. Msgr. had his orphanage burned down by the KKK twice and he rebuilt. He was deeply committed to do what God called him to. I hope to bring that same loving trust to the children and faculty I see today. God is with us always and His love is everlasting. Pray to Msgr Quinn so he will be canonized.
His fight continues today in state legislatures and Congress. I will pray for his canonization too.
And 100 years ago he founded St. Peter Claver Church and started a music ministry; two of the subsequent choir members were Lena Horne and Pearl Bailey. What a remarkable Servant of God, indeed!
Michelle, who are you speaking about?
I think that bringing the idea of peace into acting anti-racist is key. When I hear a racist comment or see a white supremacist behavior, I stop and calm myself before reacting. Not always easy, but effective. I find that having the courage to challenge the above is the first step. The second, key step is to demonstrate love and challenge to the offender is the best way to change attitudes.
Incomplete for sure but on the pathway!
Struggling with this white privileged experience, 3 steps forward and 2 steps back
99% of America is not racist. Black Lives Matter, the organization that spews forth that nonsense, is a Marxist organization aligned with the Putin agenda. I find your piece today seriously affronting to Catholicism and American Constitutionalism.
You know what is racist, take for example the city of Chicago government that has done little to stop the year over year, thousands upon thousands of Black on Black shootings and murders in that city. That is racism.
One-half of my children and grandchildren are racists. Their social media postings and re-tweets and their whispered comments fully attest to that posture although some of that number are very active in their church community (not Catholic), “doing good publicly”. Many of my co-workers also make veiled comments about the political landscape and the scorn heaped on Kamala Harris, solely for her race, is palpable. It was the same for Obama. Sadly, racism is alive and well in America. BLM is not Marxism. I have many relatives living in the Twin Cities where George Floyd was murdered who are Eucharist-centered Catholics and wholly support the idea that Black lives matter whether as a movement or individuals. We need to recognize that there is inherent equality in our economic system and react at the ballot box and through our actions to our fellow (wo)men.
Your statement that 99% of Americans are not racist is not supported by data or my own experience as a white man who others feel safe expressing their true opinions to, simply because they assume we belong to the same “tribe”. Also, I re-read the piece and I see nothing in there that is an affront to Catholicism or American Constitutionalism. In fact, it is very consistent with official Catholic social teaching. I would encourage you to read Isabel Wilkerson’s book “Caste: The Origin of Our Discontent”. I think it will give you another perspective.
In my job as a nurse in an inner city hospital that cares for an overwhelmingly large population of minority patients, I try to advocate for hiring of more minority nurses. I am met with incredible resistance and lack of sight. I want my young patients to see people who look like them caring for them. I need to pray for courage to keep trying.
In my “elderly years”, physical participation is not an option – but – increased participation in daily prayer life, I believe, is my responsibility – re… Despair of the young, Climate change, Racism, Covid and now the fear of, pain within Ukraine… The power of the Our Father prayed with reflection and reverence is real. We each must focus on what we can do rather than fussing over what we have no power over ie., “faith of a mustard seed”… We must live what we say we believe.
Thank you Betty! I needed to hear this.
Claiming there have, in just the last few years, been “countless murders” of Blacks “by police and vigilantes” is over-the-top gross exaggeration that tends to exacerbate racial issues. I’m curious how you define “countless”.
Apparently my comment didn’t “pass muster” because I included some links – So without the links:
In the past if I read a “Black Lives Matter” comment I would reply with “All Lives Matter”. I had to learn that for too long Black Lives didn’t matter.
I had to learn that “White Privilege” doesn’t mean you’re wealthy or well of. It means you don’t have to deal with behaviors of others that are triggered by the color of your skin – I am not treated differently because I am “Banking while Black” or Shopping while Black” (you can google them)
I had to learn that I have biases that I am not aware of – or choose not to acknowledge. You can take a bias test to learn about yourself. (google that too)
In short – Now I know better so I must do better. Every day.
We are one body in Christ.
Thanks Brother Ernest. For the reshaping and remaking of communities, societies, nations, and the world, the transformative faculty of the ethic of love and the ethic of justice in us needs outlets. Unleashing that precious resource can be a humble step in the right direction.
For years now, I have been following Bryan Stevenson who wrote the book “Just Mercy”. I’ve learned so much from his, Equal Justice Initiative. I’ve learned a lot and have been humbled because I care, I’m interested in learning and believe that racism is alive and well and has recently manifested itself in overwhelming ways. “This Day in History” emails from EJI are literally daily reminders of the sins of racism. Lord, have mercy on us sinners”. Like Nineveh, may we repent!
Would it not have been equally effective to say that the Kingdom applies to all rather than using the black activist ideological language meant to challenge? The Kingdom is colorblind. Trying to live that out is difficult enough without language based on feelings and ideology getting “in the way”.
I agree that the kingdom belongs to all God’s children. It doesn’t matter what colour skin is in power. Once in power, regardless of race, few remember to truly serve the needs of the poor, regardless of race, culture, or religion. Here in NZ only 18% of Maori, who represent 17% of our total polulation, can speak Maori. But those in power, deem it necessary for those of us who cannot claim any Maori blood, we must be able to speak Maori to work for those in power, ie local councils and goverment bodies. So higly qualified non Maori Kiwis are to be found picking fruit for minimal wages, instead of being employed as social workers to help combat domestic violence, which has significantly increased since March 2020, with lockdowns and isolation. The homelessness has increased and many live in cars, because we can’t afford rents. Most homes have three bedrooms with one occupant. There are plenty of houses. But many owners do not wish to share their home with other people.
At the bottom of the ladder when everyone is poor, it does not matter what colour your skin, race, culture, religion, or what language you speak. Everyone works together, helping each other out. How do we get those in power to share the resources which should be accessible to all of us?
I am behind and catching up, as usual. The world spins way too fast for me. I so struggle with becoming apathetic or discouraged, probably since Trevon Martin. I was heart broken by what happened to him and still am. I just finished 9 weeks of learning more at JustFaith Racial Equity. I am 70 and I began protesting in 1972 and have been ever since. More and more I am just deleting. I receive the same requests for signature over and over again. I don’t know how to change hearts, only mine, and I pray now more and more and feel quite helpless otherwise. I do still know, that God is Good. We, not so much.