Systemic problems like racism and the related social ills like poverty are hard to solve and easy to kick down the road, even for well-intentioned people, because they’re so complicated. They are connected to every facet of society in the U.S. — from education to business concerns like insurance and banking, from law enforcement to health care, and every day-to-day touch point in between.
Changing the system means changing what’s normal. It may even mean changing some of the benefits we enjoy. It means upheaval.
And that’s what the protests sweeping all 50 states, including Kentucky, portend if they find success. But success depends on more than the commendable passion and dedication of the peaceful protesters who have gathered by the hundreds to demand justice for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others like them.
Success depends on the support of the majority that holds the power.
The Louisville chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice held a rally in downtown Louisville at noon Monday just for white people. Called “End White Silence,” the rally was an opportunity for white people to listen to black leaders, to hear what they need from white people. And white people were asked to volunteer whatever type of support they felt comfortable providing.
This is one way white people can step up and help end the sin of racism.
There are other ways. Each person must find his or her own way. But indifference is not the way.
On a day of reflection with other faith leaders June 1, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz urged people to find the way they are called to confront this sin.
“The dignity of every person is the responsibility of each one of us,” he said. “The unity and fabric of our community, we cannot give up on. We know that it’s sometimes painful, but it’s a process that requires each of us to seek what it means to do our part.”
He prayed that God “will give us the grace to change hearts.” And he said, “We need to condemn it (racism) with our heart and with our actions.”
Don’t let the shattered windows, graffiti and even the looting keep you from seeing the bigger message here. People are dying because our system is broken by the sin of racism. Their lives are more important than these temporal goods.
Pope Francis prayed for our country on June 3 and felt the need to remind us in the U.S. that human life is sacred.
“My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,” he said.
May we feel chastened by his words.
May we find within ourselves, with the help of the Holy Spirit, kindling for a new fire to support the work of justice, to condemn the sin of racism and find success in dismantling the systems that oppress people of color.