The Jesuit Antiracism Sodality East
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand!” – Matthew 10:7
How could I have gotten sixteen years of education in these United States and never been in a class with a Black person, no teacher, no student? It happened, except that there was a lone boy in my fifth grade parochial school class, a Black boy living close by who showed up in class and attended for a limited number of months. I know nothing about his story and made no attempt to befriend him. When I think that he and I shared birthdays very close to Emmett Till’s birthday and that he could have met Emmett’s fate, I want to weep over the blindness of our culture.
This blindness contributed to some of my mistakes as a mature Jesuit. For example, I failed to respond creatively to the Black cultural need of a young female choir member. And why did I let the person in charge of diversity issues quietly reconcile students after the use of a racial slur? I as president of the school should have spoken publicly and loudly. The school needed conversion.
I was blessed to experience the years of Dr. King’s mission and to be invited by two Jesuits to assist them after my ordination in 1972 in a mission with Catholic Charities in Baltimore. The work addressed the evils of mortgage red-lining. Our Province employed as an adviser one of the Black leaders of the Baltimore Civil Rights movement at the time, Walter Carter. At an early meeting to discuss strategy, I addressed him about my hesitations as a white priest from out-of-town ignorant of Black culture. How will I be able to relate to the Black community? He immediately eased my anxiety. “We need the kind of help you will bring to this cause and everyone will welcome you.” He helped open doors.
This month’s reflection was provided by George Bur, SJ, of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA. If you would like to volunteer to provide next month’s reflection, please contact Sean: email@example.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this reflection do not necessarily reflect those of Jesuits USA East.