“I am black and beautiful…” – Song of Solomon 1:5
The scene: Cristo Rey’s annual fundraiser at a swanky spot in downtown Baltimore. As instructed, I pull up to the valet in my aging Corolla. He yells jokingly, “Look at this piece of junk!” We’re both dressed in black and he thinks I am also a valet. I smile.
Inside will soon be 400 benefactors, nearly all of them white. A small group of teachers and students staff the event. I’m paired with a junior mostly unknown to me, K. He’s Black, I’m white. Our task is to stand behind a table and sell $100 raffle tickets.
An hour in, a man approaches alone and introduces himself as one of the event’s organizers. We thank him.
“I’ll buy five, but if I win, he’s gotta mow my lawn, okay?” he says, looking at K. We both smile uncomfortably. He repeats the line.
The man leans into me as if we’re sharing a private joke. “It’s okay, I live in a condo. I don’t have a yard.”
A school administrator passes by, working the crowd. He announces to her his desired raffle prize. She laughs uneasily and moves on.
He turns back to us and repeats his offer for the fourth time. My reaction is not to ask K. to describe his corporate internship or to tell the man that K. will hire someone else to cut his grass or that I would do it myself. Instead, in an instant I betray my partner. I fake-laugh and agree with the man, who finally pays and walks away.
Those were the last raffle tickets K. sold. He silently excused himself and found a safer job. I later apologized and left the event early myself, feeling for the first time (though not the last) like one of the white people in the movie Get Out
. Causing harm to my students rather than protecting them. Living at their expense.
Check out this Black Lives Matter testimonial video from the USA East Province’s newest parish, Our Lady of the Presentation – Our Lady of Mercy in Brooklyn.
This month’s reflection was provided by Fr. Sean Toole, SJ, of San Ignacio de Loyola Parish in Chalco, Mexico. If you would like to volunteer to provide next month’s reflection, please contact Sean: firstname.lastname@example.org.