My dear brother Deacons,
Below is a letter from our own brother Deacon Clarence McDavid on the current events that have transpired and have radically affected the entire country. No person in the United States; and indeed the world, should ever be subjected to the kind of abuse and treatment we saw in Minneapolis. Regardless of race, color, origin, gender, or religion, we are ALL made in the image of God and should be treated accordingly. I know that I am “preaching to the proverbial choir” when addressing my dear brother Deacons. But, I would encourage each of you to remember that we are to teach and preach the Gospel to everyone. Please take a careful look at Deacon McDavid’s article and pray about what you might need to reveal to those unaware of this grave sin.
As Deacons we also have an obligation to pray without ceasing. Let us pray for the victims of racism and the families affect by this terrible injustice. But, pray also for those who laud their power over others and bring sorrow to their loved ones because of their actions and prejudices.
On this day, June 1, 2020, it is devastating that we are where we are in the United States concerning racism. It is as if the actions of those who have gone before us and fought to end racism do not matter. But it does matter for racism exists today. The killing of African-Americans because of who they are is a racist activity. Such racist actions must end now.
In August 2019, I had the opportunity to travel to Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama. In going to the various museums and historical sites my eyes were opened to the terrors of slavery and lynching that occurred throughout the country. Slavery and lynching were declared illegal. In its place was mass incarceration where innocent African-American men, women and children were placed in prisons, many executed, for crimes that they did not commit. Incarceration took on a new meaning where it could be carried out in place of slavery and lynching. In Alabama we saw a declaration: “Slavery did not end it evolved.” A new way of torture and persecution evolved where those who were unable to defend themselves became victims to another form of racism.
In the past two days I received statements written by two men (one African-American and one white). Both statements were written in response to the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota. Deacon Joseph Connor, the President of the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons (NABCD), wrote the first statement. Deacon Joseph clearly labeled what happened to Mr. George Floyd as the sin of racism. He points to the letter written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) entitled “Open Wide Our Hearts” and how it discusses the presence of racism in all areas of our society. The bishops declare racism a sin. What is important about what Deacon Joseph wrote is that he said prayer is important but now it is time for action. He called on all African-American Deacons, clergy, and parishioners to stand up against racism and the killing of men like George Floyd.
I was still contemplating how to take on the challenge of Deacon Joseph when I received an email from my daughter in St. Louis (Hilary Harris). Hilary works at Barnes Jewish Hospital and shared with me what was sent out by the CEO of BJC HealthCare, Rich Liekweg. Mr. Liekweg discusses in his communication to the employees of BJC HealthCare (well over 5,000) how he lives in a privileged position. But his position of privilege comes at the expense of others and the perpetuation of systemic racism. He takes a very powerful stand at the end of his letter to the BJC HealthCare community (and most likely beyond BJC) that is as follows:
My parents taught me to give back, to stand up for those not as economically fortunate, to be principled, and to speak the truth at all times. These tragic events this week, the 100,000+ deaths accelerated by COVID-19, and the continued health care and racial disparities in our community, highlight the stark realties of our public health crisis in St. Louis and across America. This public health crisis is not the result of COVID-19, it is not the result of poverty, it is not the result of gun violence, it is not the result of underfunding our public health system. I firmly believe it is the result of racism in America – structural and institutionalized racism that privileged white men have perpetuated for far too long. I can’t deny my privilege, but I can stand up, step forward, and call out these injustices that people who look like me have perpetuated, supported and promoted far too long. And I will do just that each and every day going forward. I now call on my white friends to do the same. Use the unearned privilege of birth for the benefit of all. If you cannot, then step aside, sit down, and get out of the way. The health and future of all God’s children depend on it.
As church, it is clear that we pray for a different world where social injustice and the evils of racism do not dominate who we are. But as Deacon Joseph Connor and Mr. Rich Liekweg so clearly state, this is not a time for silence. The police officers who stood and silently watched as one of their own kneeled on the neck of George Floyd did nothing to save his life or change the situation. What we learn from this situation is that we have to speak up. We know that others tried to change the outcome and have the police officer stop what he was doing but his own looked on and let it happen.
We have received a gift of faith from our Lord Jesus Christ. He calls us to follow him. He promised and has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. Let us take action to speak to our leaders and declare that systematic racism will no longer be tolerated. Let us demand that our leaders inside and outside of the church take an equally strong stand against the sin of racism.
Sincerely in Christ,
Deacon Clarence McDavid