“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.” – Pope Francis
Racism is racial prejudice, hatred or discrimination involving one group having the power to carry out systemic discrimination through the institutional policies and practices of the society which are shaped by cultural beliefs and values that support racist policies and practices.
Throughout history, many racial and ethnic groups have suffered indignities, violence and injustice because they have been perceived as “other” by their white counterparts. Although awareness of racial injustice is growing across the world, racism persists and continues to deny people of color and indigenous peoples their dignity and human rights.
Racism has roots in North America that date back to the institution of chattel slavery in the United States and Canada and the subsequent laws that have limited the rights of freed slaves and their descendants even to this day.
Through structures, systems and policies that have functioned to uphold racist ideology and practices, white privilege and white supremacy have been fortified. Father Brian Massingale, SJ, explains white privilege and white supremacy this way, “We know how our culture frames whiteness and folks of color. We know how race works in America. The fundamental assumption behind all the others is that white people matter, or should matter, more than people of color. Certainly, more than black people. That black lives don’t matter, or at least not as much as white lives. “
The Catholic Church considers all forms of racism—including racist ideas and language, acts of discrimination, and systemic racism—to be evil, to be sinful. Racism is sinful because it violates the fundamental dignity of the human person who is made in the image and likeness of God, and it rejects the unity and oneness which our Creator has intended for all life.
While racism is often evident, it is also insidious. The insidious nature of racism requires deep reflection and examination of the most subtle aspects of our thinking, acting and believing. It requires that we develop an ever-expanding awareness of how and where we have, consciously or unconsciously, perpetuated racism in our daily lives.
As the Catholic Church is clear on the sinfulness of racism, the Church is gradually awakening to the many ways it has promoted slavery, segregation, and racism throughout its own history. Women religious are also beginning to address their own personal and institutional complicity in racism. Acknowledging the history of racism and our participation in it as individuals and as members of groups; discovering ways that we can act to rectify it; and inviting others to this dialogue, is the work of dismantling racism.
We are guided in this work by the vision of You Are Sent, the constitution of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, especially GD 33: “We call ourselves to embody Gospel values and to live the social teachings of the Church. Working toward the enablement of persons and the promotion of human dignity, we contribute to positive systemic change in society.”
We invite you to join us in the work of dismantling racism.