The Jesuit Antiracism Sodality East
“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” – Matthew 12:50
I greet people differently, or at least I used to do so, based on their race. Greetings are a sacred part of every interaction and I didn’t realize this fully until about five years ago. Thankfully, because of the grace and kindness extended to me in this particular interaction, and the gift of regular reflection through the examen , it became a lesson to reflect on as I work to do my part in cultivating healthy relationships and a more just society.
“What’s up, brother?” Followed by an awkward pause. I am white and he is Black and is now looking at me with skepticism. He later commented that he wasn’t comfortable with me saying that to him in our first meeting. We didn’t know each other like that. Reflecting on this interaction, I often think of the time when people tell Jesus his family is outside, he stops and asks, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” (Mt. 12:48) and he redefines what it means to be in his family.
I’ve learned that “brother” implies a relationship and isn’t to be used casually. Digging deeper, however, I realized I had been changing how I talked and acted depending on the race of the person I met. Realizing I was being racist in this way was and is an uncomfortable truth. Pope Francis reminds us in Fratelli Tutti that, “racism is a virus that quickly mutates” (97). To build healthy trust and love in God’s family, I now know I need to be myself, evaluate all my actions closely, and realize there’s no room for performing and “heaping up empty phrases” (Mt. 6:7).
Each year the faculty and staff of St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Loyola Early Learning Center, and Loyola Blakefield gather for the Baltimore Jesuit Schools’ Day of Reflection. This year we focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion work and what it means to be an antiracist. The collaboration was and is a blessing as we all continue to learn and grow. Recently, I was thrilled to see SILA in the spotlight in a recent article titled An Ignatian Foundation: How Nativity Schools are Working for Racial Justice.
This month’s reflection was provided by Brendan O’Kane of Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland. If you would like to volunteer to provide next month’s reflection, please contact Sean Toole, SJ: firstname.lastname@example.org.