Taking a Stand on Racism
Sister Judith Sutera, OSB
Editor's note: Sisters from Mount St. Scholastica write a weekly column tutled "View from the Mount" in our hometown newspaper, the Atchison Globe. This column appeared in the Oct. 1, 2016, edition of the Globe.
Our prioress, Sister Anne Shepard, recently attended a meeting of the leaders of many communities of sisters in the United States. At these meetings, they not only hear inspiring religious speakers and conduct organizational business, but they also talk about issues of concern in our nation. Things that affect society are a concern of sisters not just because they, too, are citizens, but because they have a special commitment to all God’s people, especially those in need. This time, they issued a statement about racism.
It is impossible to ignore news accounts of shootings by police, and of police, because of the tension around racial matters. Mistreatment of Mexican immigrants or Muslims has nothing to do with anything done by that particular person and everything to do with hostility towards an entire group of people, a majority of whom have done nothing deserving such treatment.
While the acts of violence and the spouting of hate speech are the work of a very few, it is necessary to realize that things can be done (or not done) at the institutional level that can help reduce the tension. So the sisters have committed themselves to the following resolution and want to encourage others to be mindful of their concerns as well.
It states: “Following in the footsteps of Jesus, we commit ourselves to examine the root causes of injustice, particularly racism, and our own complicity as congregations, and to work to effect systemic change as we struggle to establish economic justice, abolish modern-day slavery, ensure immigrant rights, promote nonviolence, and protect Earth and its biosphere. We pledge prayer, education, and advocacy and commit to using our collective voice, resources, and power in collaboration with others to establish justice which reflects God's abundant love and desire that all may have life.”
It’s a tall order and it’s easy to think, because the statement’s so broad, that it isn’t very realistic or useful. But it reminds each of us that we care about these things. As the saying goes, no one can do everything but everyone can do something. The writers include some suggested actions. One is that “members are encouraged to address the root causes of injustice as well as our own complicity as congregations and to urge their social justice promoters to coordinate communication, share resources, and act in collaboration with other justice groups in their region.” That simply means that they, and any other caring person or group that supports these goals, should get together with others to share resources and engage in actions.
The first part is a little more challenging. It invites us to ask ourselves whether we and our institutions are part of the problem. What about your own church congregation or neighborhood or social groups? How have you welcomed or not welcomed people of other races, ethnicities or lifestyles? Are there things you are not proud of or you wish had been handled in a more hospitable way?