El Paso’s bishop, Mark Seitz, has penned a pastoral letter addressing racism. A few friends regard it highly, and one thinks it’s the best of what has been a smallish output from US bishops as individuals and as a conference.
As I’ve read through it, a few things strike me. The first is this reflection, situating this document in context of being a pastoral leader on the Mexico-US border:
I hope to bear some of the weight of the reality of racism that has been part of the experience of many here on our border. (Night Will Be No More 6)
This may be hard. I know it will be difficult at times for me. Words like racism and white supremacy make us uncomfortable and anxious and I don’t use these labels lightly. We live in a brutally unforgiving culture where these words are tossed about like weapons. But perhaps we are also aware that these conversations may require changes to the way we think and live. Challenging racism and white supremacy, whether in our hearts or in society, is a Christian imperative and the cost of not facing these issues head on, weighs much more heavily on those who live the reality of discrimination. (Night Will Be No More 7)
It strikes me that white men have relatively little to lose by an openness to the reality of racism. It doesn’t mean this awareness is not hard to bear, or that it might require some leap into new ways of thinking.
For me, I’ve found the sin of sexism more readily apparent. I have a mother, sister, wife, and daughter. Most of my professional colleagues are women. An even higher percentage are parish volunteers. The reality of abuse in families, workplaces, schools, among friends is a grave sin I’ve seen perpetrated with way too many women I’ve known.
I have no doubt that men and women of color have stories to tell from the abuse rendered at the hands of whites in power. If we find it difficult to listen, perhaps that is a sign. It could be a sign to not run away, but to engage the pain, hurt, and anguish imposed on another human being.