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The Jesuit Antiracism Sodality East

“How good and pleasant it is, when [siblings] dwell together as one!” – Psalm 133:1

 

Desolation

As part of my Jesuit studies at Fordham University, I have the distinct privilege of living in the Bronx, NY. The borough is a unique, diverse place, with space for people from across the globe. In addition to families who trace their heritage to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and the American South, it features enclaves of Irish, Yemeni, Jewish, Ghanaian, Italian, Albanian, and assimilated white Americans, to name but a few. The borough is predominantly populated by people of color, a reality that results in disinvestment in and negative talk about the borough. Public transit is insufficient and irregular: in addition to simply not running one line in the Bronx on many weekends, it is not uncommon to be passed by several subway trains that terminate in Manhattan before a Bronx-bound one becomes available. Public hospitals are notoriously bad in comparison with other facilities throughout the city. Reports of crime in the borough are often sensationalized and make headlines far more often than the white-collar crime or even human rights abuses of the owners of Midtown Manhattan’s multimillion-dollar condos. In casual conversation with friends and family, they often suggest the borough is a place of danger. Such disinvestment and negative talk about the borough are not unrelated to its population. Popular opinion and disinvestment in the Bronx mean people here live daily experiences of racist responses to their neighborhoods. While I can get annoyed when these things inconvenience me, I truly feel the frustration and hopelessness of desolation when I consider how they serve as stark barriers to the wellbeing of so many here.

Consolation

On Saturday, September 23rd, a group of Jesuits in formation gathered virtually with a group of Descendants of Jesuit slaveholding. The time was intended to provide a space for two groups whose histories are closely intertwined to share truth for the sake of transformation. Descendants shared about the trauma of discovering their family’s history, disappointment at ways the Jesuits have failed and continue to fail in furthering racial justice, and continued realities of racism they encounter in their own lives. Jesuits shared about obstacles they’ve encountered when trying to engage in anti-racist work. Not easy topics, yet the meeting was deeply hopeful. Descendants expressed their hope that as young Jesuits we would live our Jesuit lives with them in mind, asking us to be “champions of the truth” and “spiritual warriors to end racism.” They spoke eloquently about the importance of reconciliation as central to our shared Catholic faith, and they spoke of the work of the Descendants Association and the Descendants Truth and Reconciliation Foundation as central to that reconciliation. The young Jesuits seemed to agree. Many, Descendants and Jesuits alike, saw the meeting itself as one manifestation of the reconciliation we all seek. While we still have a long way to go, the meeting was a real space of encounter across long-standing racial and power lines that broke down some of those boundaries and allowed for the beginning of relationship. It opened my imagination to envision what true anti-racism can look like, in the Society and beyond. And more than anything, the chance to meet was an opportunity for each of us to see the face of Christ in one another.

This month’s reflection was provided by Brian Martindale, SJ, of Fordham University in the Bronx. If you would like to volunteer to provide an upcoming reflection, please contact Sean: stoole@jesuits.org.

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

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