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The Jesuit Antiracism Sodality East

Desolation

My barber gets a call in the middle of my haircut. He almost only speaks Spanish and the caller is only speaking English, so I butt in to translate. I take the phone, speak to the client, and ask the barber, “5pm Friday, is there room?” “Sí sí, ¿nombre?” I get the gentleman’s name and say it to my barber as he grabs his appointment book. His puzzled face betrays his attitude but I press on to repeat the name and spell it for him. He puts the book down to continue my cut. I can see what he wrote at the time for 5pm, Friday: “black.” That’s how he’ll recognize the client. Racism is real in the Bronx.

“I’m just looking at your students at recess,” a neighbor of our school tells me, “and not a lot Black students.” She is Black, not happy, and factually correct. Even in a heavily Latino borough, Latinos are over-represented at our school. I run responses through my head, from my attempts to network with Black pastors and imams to the sad pastoral history of African-Americans in the Catholic Church to the cultural Catholicism of Latinos – she interrupts my thinking. “Send them all back and build the wall.” She glares at me, then at the students in the park, and then walks away. Xenophobia is real in the Bronx.

Consolation

The photo represents the high point of Spirit Week at Saint Ignatius School. Students were encouraged to bring in flags and to wear clothing items that are part of their culture. Students wore everything from West African dashikis to Mayan huipiles to lots and lots of Mexican soccer and Dominican baseball jerseys. A Ghanaian flag chills between two Dominican flags, a fitting image of friendship in the eighth-grade boys class. The sixth and seventh grade girls knotted Central American, Ecuadoran, and Caribbean flags together, showing that they can, in fact, overcome the drama so typical of middle schoolers. And for that matter, they showed that they can overcome the bigotry so typical of hurting, bitter adults. The Kingdom of God is real in the Bronx, and it belongs to children such as these.

This month’s reflection was provided by Vinny Marchionni, SJ a Jesuit Priest of the USA East Province who serves as Director of Admissions and Community Engagement at St. Ignatius School in the Bronx, NY. If you would like to volunteer to provide an upcoming reflection, please contact Jason Downer, SJ: downerjg@lemoyne.edu.
 

The views and opinions expressed in this reflection do not necessarily reflect those of Jesuits USA East.

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