Where Are the Institutional Voices?

Blog by Justice Promoter Sister Judy Morris, OP

As a high school freshman attending a lily-white public high school in Danville, Kentucky, I learned soon that what I learned in the classroom was a small part of education for life.  Soon after beginning my freshman year, an associate pastor from my parish church issued a challenge to members of “Young Christian Students,” an association specifically geared toward Catholic students attending public schools.  He challenged us to meet with managers of local restaurants and ask why they did not serve Black customers.  With some nervousness, I accepted the challenge and met with three restaurant managers.  The answer was not a surprise:  “We do not want to lose our white customers.”  This was the beginning of a long journey for me to face the sin of racism.  I remain grateful to that priest for challenging me to face the reality of racism in this small town.  The challenge of personal responsibility remains in my actions.

Years later I was a graduate student in the School of Social Work at Barry College (now Barry University) and took a course in Institutional Racism.  The professor, Gil Raiford, an African American, challenged students to examine racism through the lens of our institutions, specifically educational, economic, religious, and political.  People of color rarely have a voice in the decision-making process within those institutions. How can change happen to remove racism from our institutions without the active participation of African Americans on all levels of decision making?  The questions and challenges remain.

We find few African Americans serving as Presidents or department heads in predominately white colleges.  It is only in recent years that courses in African American studies are offered.  College boards of trustees, high school boards and school boards in general too often have an inadequate representation of African Americans in any given location.

In our political arena, suppression of the “Black vote” is obvious and ongoing.  Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona, and in many other areas continue to reduce the number of voting sites, require a photo ID and engage in gerrymandering to discourage voting.  The challenges to the outcome of the most recent presidential election centered largely on Atlanta, Detroit, and Philadelphia, all with large African American populations.  Another troubling reality is that Congress has failed to extend the John Lewis bill on voting rights.

Without African American voices in education and politics, we often find inequitable funding for schools in poor neighborhoods.  According to the Center for American Progress, predominately Black schools receive $23 billion less in funding each year.  Schools in Black, indigenous, and Hispanic areas often have outdated materials, are under-resourced, and in many cases, are in buildings that are hazardous to their health.  Resources need to be updated or replaced.  Money matters in education!

Have our religious institutions played a role as moral leaders in addressing racism?  When was the last time you heard a homily on racism?  Or on any justice issue period?  Where were the religious voices of leaders after Charlottesville, after the murder of Black parishioners in Charleston?

Where are the black voices in your parish or your diocese – or are they, like my high school in Kentucky, lily-white and unaware of the issues facing our sisters and brothers of color?

From the parish and school board to colleges and Congress, our institutions are failing in our struggle to remove racism from our current reality.  It is always the right time to ask the hard questions of institutional leaders and demand that all voices be heard.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog

We Celebrate our Black Sisters and Brothers in History – #BlackHistoryMonth

“We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.”
– Carter Woodson, 1926, historian

 

As we mark Black History Month in 2021, we stand in love and solidarity with our black sisters and brothers. We also mourn the loss of one of our Congregation’s most passionate voices for racial justice, Director of Associates Colette Parker.

A former journalist and Juvenile Probation Officer in Akron, OH, Colette came to the Dominican Sisters of Peace as our Co-Director of Associates in 2016, and was named the Congregation’s first Director of Associates in 2019. Under her direction, our Associate group grew to more than 750. She was also instrumental in the creation of our North East Ohio Racial Justice Committee, and an important voice in the creation of our Congregation’s statements on social and racial justice.

Colette passed away on Saturday, November 28, 2020, following a brief illness.

As we honor the contributions of our black sisters and brothers to the history of our nation, we also honor our dear friend Colette Parker and her contributions to our Congregation by re-sharing some of her most moving writings as a representative of our Associate’s group. These essays and blogs will be published as part of a special electronic book that will be made available later this month.

We hope that you value these beautiful writings as much as we do and that by reading them, you will come to know this woman of humble heart, giving spirit, and great, God-given talent.

Please click here to give to the Colette Parker Memorial Associates’ Fund.


 

February 25, 2021

We Have the Power to Redeem the Soul of America

Posted on August 3, 2020

COVID-19 has laid bare the systemic oppression that is at the root of inequality in America.

Civil unrest has highlighted what Black and brown people have known (since forever): that we have been historically denied constitutionally guaranteed rights, on the basis of the racial construct.

If you’re anything like me, you may have found yourself trying to figure out how you can move the needle toward (what seems to be the ever-elusive “thing” called) racial justice. Some are still searching for a way to make a positive difference. Some are still wondering if they CAN make a difference.

I say to you: Yes. You CAN!  As a source of motivation, I offer these words from the late Congressman John Lewis (written shortly before his death and published in The New York Times on the day of his funeral, July 30, 2020):

“Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble.”

The question now is: Are we willing to do the work?

Are we willing to admit that the declaration of our country as a beacon of freedom (a nation where there is equal justice for all) is a lie?

Are we willing to admit that the forced removal of indigenous peoples and the institution of slavery marked the beginnings of a system of racial injustice from which our country has yet to break free?

Are we willing to admit that deep-seated systemic inequities that disadvantage people of color are still woven into the fabric of our institutions?

Acknowledging these truths is necessary, IF we are serious about dismantling systemic racism and working to repair centuries of harm inflicted on an oppressed people.

As more Americans are awakening to how systemic racism has cheated generations of Black and brown children and as our nation experiences this racial justice reckoning, it is up to us – ordinary people with extraordinary vision —  to create the “more perfect union” that ALL Americans deserve. It is up to us to create a future of harmony where everyone can benefit.

We can start by heeding Lewis’ instructions: vote and participate in the democratic process; study and learn the lessons of history and accept that the truth does not change; continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe; put aside hatred; stand up, speak up and speak out, when you see something that is not right.

Together, we “can redeem the soul of America by getting in … good trouble, necessary trouble.”


Please click below to read the previous posts from Colette Parker.

February 23, 2021

Real Talk

 

February 18, 2021

Change is Coming – I Hope

 

February 16, 2021

Unapologetically Black

 

February 10, 2021

Holding Up The Light of Truth

 

February 8, 2021

The Pandemic Can Empower Us to Demand Change

 

February 4, 2021

What Manner of Love Does your God Prescribe?

 

February 2, 2021

Change and Faith


 

Posted in News