Racism is evil, a particularly deep-rooted and damaging form of evil that haunts our nation’s past and present. As Catholics, we have the duty to condemn and uproot racism from our hearts and from our society. Discrimination is a sin against justice; fearful complacency in the face of racism is a sin against courage; hatred and callousness are sins against love. Ultimately, all racist acts are a rejection of God, in whose image each and every human being is made. In practical terms, the sin of racism takes many different forms, from offhand comments to structural systems of oppression of minority communities.
Let us be honest about our own complicity in racism, for “If we acknowledge our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing” (1 Jn 1:9). The Lord can free our hearts from this sin so that we can love our neighbours as ourselves.
Catholics should eagerly welcome the fight against racism. It is an opportunity to work for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth and in our own souls. It is a chance to give and receive the loving mercy of the Lord. It is a path to closeness with His Sacred Heart, which bears the wounds of all who are oppressed and suffering.
As I am not at all an authority on questions of race and racism, I am striving to educate myself in this time of crisis. Below, I share for my white Catholic readers a list of resources that I have found helpful in the past, or am beginning to use now. Of course, it is limited in number and in scope, largely focusing on anti-Black racism due to current events. And, importantly, this list is merely a place to start — our efforts must begin with self-education, continue with listening and dialogue, and end in active work. The AND Campaign has outlined active steps to take, and I invite you to join me in taking them.
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein
- Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Freedom is a Constant Struggle, by Angela Davis
- Beloved, by Toni Morrisson
- Letter from a Birmingham Jail, by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- A Terrible Thing To Waste: Environmental Racism And Its Assault On The American Mind by Harriet A. Washington
- Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters across the Color Line, by Chris Pramuk
- Excerpts from Catholic Social Teaching. The USCCB issued a beautiful and helpful Pastoral Letter Against Racism in 2018; this Pastoral Letter on Evangelization from African-American Bishops in 1984 remains important
- The History of Black Catholics in the United States, by Cyprian Davis
- The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, by Jemar Tisby
- The stories of early African American priests and religious, and priests and religious who served their communities, who encountered profound opposition and racism from outside and within the Church. Some examples: Fr. Augustus Bolton, the three Healey brothers, the Divine Word Missionaries, Mother Mary Lange and the Oblate Sisters of Providence, Sisters of the Holy Family, the Josephites, the Franciscan Handmaids of Mary, the Blessed Sacrament Sisters, and many more. One modern-day example (and hero) is Sr. Thea Bowman.
- The New York Times’ podcast 1612, on the way that slavery has shaped America
- MLK’s I Have a Dream speech
- Songs inspired by experiences of police brutality and racism
- Interview with Gloria Purvis on race, racism, and reparations
- Danielle Brown on the Catholic Feminist Podcast on building bridges and understanding racism
- CNA Newsroom podcast episode on racism and National Catholic Reporter podcast episode on “Why systemic racism is a pro-life issue”
- Movies: Just Mercy, Hidden Figures, 12 Years a Slave, Selma
- Documentaries: 13th, Black America Since MLK, I Am Not Your Negro, Let the Fire Burn
- TED Talks on race and racism
- Webinar on Combating the Sin of Racism, from the National Black Catholic Congress
- Equal Justice Initiative
- National Black Catholic Congress
- Give directly to the families of victims
- Center for Policing Equity
- Black Minds Matter UK
- Ministry Against the Death Penalty
- Support Black-owned businesses
- Prayer for Racial Healing from Catholic Charities
- Ask for the intercession of Black Catholic saints and martyrs.
- A Stations of the Cross dedicated to praying for an end to racism
- A scripturally-based reflection on racism and the Body of Christ
Let us beg Our Lady to intercede for us, our Church, and our nation, that we might be freed from this evil.