Updated: Oct 13, 2020
It has now been roughly three weeks since the death of George Floyd at the hands of several police officers in Minneapolis, the final minutes of that death captured in a now infamous video taken by a bystander at the scene. Those in the parish who have been joining in our noon Masses either online or, more recently, in person know that I have addressed his death and the topic of racism in several of my homilies over the last couple of weeks. But this is my first time addressing it in a bulletin letter. I have spent the last few weeks, as many of you have, watching the TV, reading many articles in newspapers and online, and trying to take in all of the many facets of what we have been seeing. What follows is certainly not the fullness of what can be said on this topic but serves as a beginning point for further reflections. I’ll begin with the incident that sparked these most recent discussions. What happened to George Floyd was horrific. I have tried to watch the video and can only get so far before I have to turn it off, as I (very literally) find myself getting sick to my stomach. No human being should ever be treated the way he was treated. Besides the primary and obvious sin of murder, the sight of this white police officer snuffing out the life of a black man also conjures up images of a long history of racism in our country. It is one of the sad realities of our country that institutional racism has been present from the beginning. The African slave trade fueled the economic growth and prosperity of our nation during its early decades, but at a horrific price in human lives. Slaves may have been freed after the Civil War, but they and their descendants were hardly equal. And even if the civil rights legislation of the 1960’s purported to end all forms of racial discrimination on paper, people of color even today have countless stories of how the reality is very different. I recently read about one study conducted in the early 2000’s where researchers created fictitious resumés that were mailed out to job listings in multiple cities in our country. The jobs covered a broad range of positions from cashiers to sales to higherlevel management. The “fake” resumes that were mailed out were equivalent in all ways (education, job experience, etc.) except in one: the names. Half the resumes had distinctly “white sounding” names (e.g. Emily Walsh), and half had “black sounding” names (e.g. Lakisha Washington). The result of the study? The resumés with “black sounding” names were 50% less likely to get a callback for an interview than the equivalent resumé with a white name. This is just one example of a reality that racial minorities in our country face every day, in so many facets of life. “The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1935). God created all of the people of our world, in all of our wonderful diversity. Every single person is created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26), and thus every person reveals to us something of the beauty and goodness of God himself. May we all strive to see and honor that beauty and goodness in each other, and cherish the differences that make us uniquely made in His image.
Fr. John Paul