A group of St. Patrick Church parishioners who gathered the evening of June 3 to talk about opposing racism heard that the burden is great, but there is hope.
The event, held at the Eastwood parish, was the last in a five-part series based on the Archdiocese of Louisville booklet “Walking in My Shoes: A Challenge to Eradicate Racism,” which offers a self-guided study in understanding the experience of a Black person living in the United States today.
Annette Mandley-Turner, executive director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Multicultural Ministry, and her husband Deacon James Turner led parishioners in a discussion on what actions they might take to oppose racism.
The discussion stemmed from their four previous gatherings, which presented an overview of racism and racial inequity, personal stories of racism, a discussion based on a documentary on racism and the Catholic Church’s teaching on systemic racism.
During the final session, the Turners shared personal stories about their experiences with racism. As an example, Mandley-Turner shared with the group that she, her son and 13-year-old grandson had been harassed by law enforcement officials in their East End neighborhood.
Deacon Turner, who serves at St. Martin de Porres Church, said Black people experiencing racism today are feeling the long-term effects of slavery.
“We were birthmarked when we were stolen from Africa. It has carried over into our very fabric. When we go to a store, we want to make sure our children are in sight. We don’t want them to be stolen … we live in fear,” he said.
Mandley-Turner told the group of about 15 that the “burden” of racism is great.
“It’s so present now in ways you never thought, but I still believe that a change is going to come,” she said. “I believe my grandchildren will not have to endure this ugliness. I have hope.”
Among those who heard Mandley-Turner and Deacon Turner’s experiences that evening were St. Patrick parishioners Janet Teel and her husband, Ed, and Ron Tyrer. They’d also attended the other four presentations.
Janet Teel and Tyrer said that while praying for an end to racism is important, they also wanted to take action.
Janet Teel shared that she’d taken part in protests downtown following the shooting of Breonna Taylor by Louisville Metro Police officers last year. She said doing something physical to speak out against injustice felt good.
The series at St. Patrick made her realize the “real necessity of hearing from people of color, from their mouth, individual stories about how they are affected daily,” she said, noting that some of the stories that moved her during the series on racism were told by Black women.
One woman shared that she always gets a receipt when she checks out at a store no matter how small the item. She always needs proof, the woman said, that she paid. Another shared that she worried every day that her teenage son, a new driver, would have an encounter with the police.
“It really hit me how we take so many things for granted,” Teel noted. “We cannot possibly know what it’s like to not be white. It was very important for me to hear so we can have empathy.”
Father Jeffrey Shooner, pastor of St. Patrick, said it was important for his parish to do this five-part series on racism because of all that’s happened in the community over the past year. Many of his parishioners are “deeply concerned” about racism, he said.
“Clearly within our society, it’s become a greater issue, worthy not only of our attention but of our reflection of our role in” contributing to racism, said Father Shooner.
Prior to this series, parishioners had acted independently to combat racism; there had been homilies preached on racism, but St. Patrick wanted to “thoughtfully and prayerfully reflect on how we can respond” as a parish, he said.
“It’s about trying to understand more fully and see what that calls us to,” said Father Shooner. “We felt the ‘Walking in my Shoes: Challenge to Eradicate Racism’ process provided an opportunity for us to go deeper personally as well as a community in talking about the issue. There’s a lot we can learn from it on how to engage the church community and how to engage better with the social teachings of the church.”
Mandley-Turner told the group she understands the urge to act, but cautioned them against taking on too much too quickly.
“The worst thing for you to do is have a ‘savior complex,’ ” said Mandley-Turner. “Black people are not looking to be saved.”
Deciding what action you want to do and finding people who will be “allies” is the first step, she said.
Mandley-Turner and Deacon Turner shared with the group eight “everyday ways to fight racism.”
- Learn to recognize and understand your own privilege.
- Examine your own biases and consider where they may have originated.
- Validate the experiences and feelings of people of color.
- Challenge the “colorblind” ideology — the myth that this is a post-racial society where people don’t see color. Being “colorblind” ignores a significant part of a person’s identity and dismisses the real injustices that many people face because of race.
- Call out racist “jokes” or statements.
- Find out how your company or school works to expand opportunities for people of color.
- Be thoughtful with your finances. Get to know the practices of companies that you invest in and the charities you fund.
- Remember all forms of oppression are connected. You cannot fight against one form of injustice and not fight against others.
“Walking in My Shoes” is available on the website of the Office of Multicultural Ministry https://www.archlou.org/services-directory/archdiocesan-agencies-facilities/multicultural-ministry/. Additional resources related to racial justice are available on the https://www.archlou.org/racial-justice-and-equality/.