We are all up in arms, outraged and positively incensed at the murder of George Floyd at the hands of racist cops. This horrible incident is still raw, fresh and gnawing at our collective conscience. There seems to be nothing that each of us is unwilling or lacking conviction to do, in addressing this racial prejudice and protesting the injustice. All the news reports are sharply focused on police brutality, and politicians are scrambling to get in their sound bytes. People who never prayed before, are participating in online prayer circles. Pick any city, and you’ll find its Archdiocese and all the Bishops holding vigil for George Floyd and the other black victims of hate crimes.
President Obama held a virtual Town Hall Meeting recently, with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, to offer up opportunities for healing the systemic injustice against people of color that plagues our nation. Because, as with all the other extreme news in our world, we must get beyond the “knee-jerk reaction” and work together first for immediate relief for those victimized and then commit to real, lasting beneficial changes to prevent hate crimes in the future.
I am ashamed that I haven’t done enough, nothing at all really, to contend with this unwholesome bigotry and prejudice. The author, Robin DiAngelo has a book out now entitled, “White Fragility -Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism”. She is brilliant in her radical assessment of white race socialization. She comes from a very knowledgeable base of experience in this field. As a diversity trainer for large corporations, Ms. DiAngelo has seen a thing or two about how white folk respond to the idea of their being racist. Turns out our collective unconscious is preventing us from recognizing the truth of our own bigotry. Being in denial is the standard response.
This author has encountered so much resistance in her classes, from a predominantly white audience, that she is convinced that there’s a “massive delusion” (my words, not hers) which she perceives as a fragile state of denial and strong aversion to anything unpleasant. In her book, she confronts the ugly and insidious aspects of white supremacy and white privilege that few other writers have touched upon, or even know about.
So as a member of the white, privileged class, I am in a real quandary. On the one hand, I am grateful for my status in society, and the relative safety and security I enjoy, but on the other, I decry the obscene lack of opportunity among my black brothers and sisters. Right now, I’m listening to my favorite radio station, Classical KDFC, which I adore because I derive such comfort from this music. It is healing and I feel that classical music nourishes my soul in a time of great turmoil and social unrest. Yet, I realize that all the hosts or announcers and staff at the station are white folk. So I’m listening to music composed by white people (all men back then), delivered through air waves or Internet by whites, and probably performed mostly by white musicians. I’ve never heard of an African American symphony conductor, have you? Anyway, there’s an unmistakable pattern in all this, and it’s very disconcerting. In fact, it’s starting to make me feel even more uncomfortable than the systemic injustice perpetrated by corrupt politicians.
But even so, how could I personally be considered racist? Only dishonest people (like most politicians) who are vain, conceited or arrogant look upon blacks as “inferior”. I was taught to treat everyone equally and with respect. I’ve never put down a person because of their color, or being different from me or my friends. Oh wait, I never had a black friend in school. Then again, I never bothered to reach across the great white divide to connect with any person of color. Deep down, I didn’t feel comfortable with that. I was swimming in a milky white homogenous pool of privilege, and I wasn’t about to rock the boat! Venturing outside my comfort zone, even just a little, is tremendously difficult — then and still is now…
The more I delve into Ms. DiAngelo’s book, the more I suspect myself of being racist without knowing it. How can that be, when I pride myself on being so “enlightened”? Well, I’ve started to look at my faith now, having recently converted to the Roman Catholic religion. In fact, I graduated just last year, from RCIA – Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults – and that has given me a whole new frame of reference, in terms of God’s love, compassion, kindness and forgiveness. A way of looking at the world that liberates me from the bondage of selfish desire, and replaces that with JOY — Put Jesus first, Others second and Yourself last. I learned that from Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
As I read “White Fragility” — taking notes as I go along — I feel compelled to offer myself in service to others. I intend to do so in ways that will bring about the overhaul of an antiquated, bigoted social system, instituted by white men so long ago, and replace it with genuine respect for people of all races, ethnic origin and religious beliefs.
I believe the BEST way to do that is through the Catholic faith. I have found that Catholicism is the only religion that truly embraces and gives real hope to the poor, marginalized and locked out of our society. In my next post, I explain how this is true.
YOUR CALL TO ACTION:
Please visit http://www.obama.org and see how you can participate in restoring peace, dignity and equality to our black brothers and sisters in our communities. God bless you!