BlackLivesMatterCatholicChurch

Illinois bishop urges the Catholic community to try to put themselves in African-American shoes to better understand the country’s ‘racial divide.’

Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Illinois is an African-American priest who has faced his fair share of racial discrimination. In a letter entitled The Racial Divide in the United States: A Reflection for the World Day of Peace 2015, he offers solutions, ideals and opinions that urge and invite Catholics to begin the much needed conversation on the current racial divide that has America in a lot of strife.

In a discussion held at Georgetown University, he asked the group before him to imagine a Catholic society that took a similar stance against whites as it occasionally does against African-Americans. He encouraged that they consider it and put themselves into the shoes of Black Catholics who may feel less than welcome at their own church.

Braxton shared explanations of the more recent events between young African-American men and white police officers or neighborhood watchers. He covered a lot of different cases, including Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice. He shared a lot of information with the crowd, and quoted from his January 2015 letter on the World Day of Peace. He encouraged the group to consider that the all-black Catholic society take a stance that was against light skinned people, bringing a new challenging thought to their faith. He said that a “growing awareness seems to be emerging that renewed efforts must be made to re-establish bonds of trust and respect between law enforcement, the judicial system and local communities,” adding that we also need to rebuild the tolerance and acceptance that human beings should have for other human beings.

In his letter, he detailed the history of human enslavement. He said that the Catholic Church has an inherently racist past, given that they waited some time before opposing slavery and the Jim Crow laws. He spoke of what he called the “great racial divide,” and how many events have resulted in the “deaths of young Men of Color at the hands of White police officers”. He spoke of the sorrow that both side families felt over their losses, as well as the violence and revenge murders that ensued across the country.

The letter ended with a list of suggested solutions that may help Catholics to bridge that racial gap. He encouraged readers to pray about these issues, and to actively engage in dialogue to encourage deeper conversations. He adds that so many people “believe that the issue of race is volatile” and they shouldn’t bring it up, instead aiming to do what they can to avoid the larger conversation. He says that “racism is a sin: a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.” He adds that we need to open up conversations between youth in communities and police officers, as well as the overall topic of race.

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