Dear Sisters and Brothers,
This week, the San Francisco Chronicle’s, Sporting Green newsletter, ran a story about the coach of the Golden State Warriors. It began, “Steve Kerr is arguably African Americans’ biggest ally among white NBA head coaches, but that hasn’t stopped him from reaching an unsettling realization … ‘I think these last four or five months, especially, have been humbling because I realized I really don’t know much about anything.’”
He was talking about the months since George Floyd was killed.
Kerr’s humility was arresting, and it has stayed with me because it has become clear to me in those same last four or five months that, regarding this issue of racial justice, I really don’t know much, either.
The truth is that terms like “white fragility” and“anti-racist” made me nervous; I was fearful of saying the wrong thing in a conversation. (I wonder if this is how some of the people that come to our RCIA program feel, not understanding terms like “Communion of Saints” and“sacrament.”) But, what I was most fearful of was that I might discover something about myself that I don’t want to be true.
Believing I needed to learn, but not knowing where to begin, I joined with some parishioners and read Fr. Bryan Massingale's, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church, and Ibram X. Kendi's, How to Be an Antiracist. My nervousness was well-placed – at times, what I read did make me uncomfortable, learning about realities others live with as a matter of course that I’d never considered, and being confronted with questions that deserve answers, which in turn require responses, it seems to me. But, more significantly, both books also resonated with me deeply; I was moved by the truths I was reading about. And I began to notice that the deep resonance came in those moments when I was undefended, engaging in “listening” to others’ experiences. I imagine it feels a bit like the conversion of St. Ignatius as he recuperated from the cannonball wound at his family castle: gentle and kind. An invitation. Maybe not, but my experience is gentle, if uncomfortable, and it does feel as though the Holy Spirit is bidding me to a conversion of my heart and mind with regard to this issue of racial justice.
At this same time, parishioners from different quarters of our faith community were feeling that our parish should do something. Still on my own learning curve and trusting that the Holy Spirit was moving in their good hearts too, I asked for their help in coordinating a way for us to begin to move forward as a parish. They have met twice, including for three hours last Saturday, for a lot of prayer and conversation on this issue, how it affects them personally, and us as a faith community.
Below are links to some things we as individuals can do for starters, in addition to the books mentioned above. It’s a curated list of three links that offer a variety of ways to begin or to continue the journey of educating ourselves on racial justice. I am very grateful for their help, and I hope you'll take a look. Let’s remember that we’re all learners.
· A Parish Journey for Racial Justice and Equity - A video showing how racial justice work is being done in other Jesuit parishes.
· 21-Day Ignatian Racial Equity Challenge - Something to do alone or with a friend.
· Jesuit West Collaborative Organizing for Racial Equity (CORE) Tool Kit - Made available by the Jesuits West Province, it provides short videos, articles, books, and some things requiring longer time commitments.
I'm not sure what comes next. But, I do believe that Jesus walks with us on this journey, and we already know him to be kind and a good companion. And the Holy Spirit will guide us, and we know her to be gentle and invitational, imaginative and powerful. So, we can step onto this road with confidence and even a bit of bravery, knowing we can safely risk being open and undefended, even bold, as we ask ourselves, “What is God calling me to do? What is God calling us to do?” And, while acknowledging the challenges that face us, let us remember – and rejoice in – the truth that the Kingdom of God will prevail.
Oremus pro invicem.
P.S.: As I was proofing the final draft of this letter (with the deadline looming), I had an insight that incited panic in my heart: I seem to have written as if we were an all-white parish. We are not - we are also African American, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx. I seem to have written as if my experience is normative. It is not - so many of us are Black and People of Color, and many who are White are much further down this road than I. Even in my desire to be “open,” I am unintentionally exclusive.
My sincere apologies to those whose experience I'm only beginning to notice more intentionally and to those who have dedicated so much to these issues already. Please be patient with my fumbling and my learning, as the Kingdom continues to break through. Oremus pro invicem, indeed. fg