A Time to Speak – Racism: ‘What can I do?’

Deacon James R. Turner
Deacon James R. Turner

By Deacon James R. Turner

On June 10, 2015, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), delivered a statement on race relations to their General Assembly.

I want to applaud Archbishop Kurtz for addressing this critical subject with the U.S. bishops and for addressing the issues and concerns that have been dismantling the very fabric of our being brothers and sisters to one another.

In his address to the bishops, he identified ways that all of us can commit to ending racism. I applaud the bishops in all the dioceses of South Carolina who recently spoke out about the tragedy of those who lost their lives in the church shooting.

I, like most ministers and citizens in the United States, have pondered over and over in my mind the horrific tragedy that occurred in Charleston, South Carolina. I too, like many Americans, continue to ask myself, “What can I do?”

Our church congregations are praying for peace, but peace alone will not sustain us from actions and behaviors that are deeply embedded with the evil of racism.

Recently I received a phone call, a voice message from an 84-year-old woman who happened to be a white Catholic. I could tell in her voice that she was very emotional and disturbed by what had occurred in Charleston. Her plea to me was heart wrenching. She asked that I, as an African American, not view all white people as bad people as a result of the incident in Charleston. My heart was filled with love and encouragement as I listened to her words of sadness, but words of hope.

It is difficult for most of us who are trying to find answers to this tragedy to find peace and to be able to move forward. This incident, coupled with a series of tragedies in our nation, has brought us to a crossroad. I think it is possible to move on, but only after we deal with and confront the evils that prevent us from protecting and respecting all human life.

What is truth? I have come to believe that truth rests in who we are and what we are to become. The Gospel of Jesus defines us as brothers and sisters born of the same father. If we believe this, then we must learn to love and protect one another.

We know that the issue of racism and the issues we face today are deeply rooted in a history of beliefs and behaviors that are taught and are not of God.

We also know that the price of truth does not come without a cost. It has a price associated with it that costs those who choose to be bearers of truth, a path that can lead to a cross.

We are being called to seek and find the truth and to make the kingdom of God here on earth a place where all God’s children can be treated with dignity and respect.

As Christian brothers and sisters in Christ we must see to it that our Catholic social teachings are reflected in our personal commitment and actions in defending and protecting others against racism.

The tragedy that occurred in Charleston has become an imprint on our minds and hearts and has created restlessness in our conscience to do something.

  •  We must work together collectively to voice our disapproval of any behaviors, beliefs and actions that create and foster the evils of racism.
  •  We must verbally and in writing communicate to our religious and political leaders our desire for them to confront racism in our society so that we can move forward to dismantle the injustices that separate us as brothers and sisters in Christ.
    Let’s not just blame signs and symbols as the cause of the injustices resulting from racism and the tragedy that occurred in Charleston and across our nation; rather, we should place our focus on changing the hearts and minds of those who violate the fundamental values of protecting life.
  •  We must search our own hearts and souls and find forgiveness for those who create and demonstrate acts of evil.
    There is much work to do by all of us regardless of our political affiliation, religion, ethnicity or race. We all play a role in what occurred in Charleston — whether we have taken a stand or we remain silent, we play a role.
  •  We must work to dismantle this beast called “racism” and move toward a purpose of oneness that embraces the love of all God’s children. What shall we do?

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:13

Deacon James R. Turner is the pastoral administrator of St. Martin dePorres and St. Augustine churches.

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