In this Eco-Justice blog space we occasionally ‘color outside the lines’ to address other Justice issues because our integral theology informs us that everything is interrelated/interconnected. This is one of those occasions. Today we’ll choose just two crayons to color outside the lines: Black & White.
After rolling through a litany of black deaths and racial injustices to begin his article for the National Catholic Reporter, Bryan Massingale, a black Catholic theology professor at Fordham University writes this:
“All of this weighs on my spirit. I try to pray, but inner quiet eludes me. I simply sit in silence on Pentecost weekend before a lit candle praying, “Come, Holy Spirit” as tears fall. Words fail me. I ponder the futility of speaking out, yet again, trying to think of how to say what has been said, what I have said, so often before. Then it occurred to me. Amy Cooper holds the key. The event in Central Park is not the most heinous listed above. The black man didn’t die — thankfully. Compared to the others, it has received little attention. But if you understand Amy Cooper, then all the rest, and much more, makes sense. And points the way forward.”
“But if you understand Amy Cooper, then all the rest, and much more, makes sense. And points the way forward.”
Today, a week after the murder of George Floyd, white folk of good will are still trying to make sense of the racial injustice and white privilege embedded in the heart and soul of this nation from its inception. It’s the malaise that Jim Wallis of Sojourners rightly calls ‘America’s original sin.’ For anyone seeking a way forward toward the realization of “a more perfect Union,” Fr. Massingale’s article is as good a guide as you’ll find right now.
“Amy Cooper knew exactly what she was doing. We all do. And that’s the problem.”
The ingrained assumptions of a young white woman whose instinct was to sic the cops on a black-skinned bird-watcher in Central Park when he politely asked her to leash her dog hold the key to understanding the white privilege (a.k.a. ‘white supremacy’) that drives racial injustice. In his insightful essay Fr. Massingale lays out 20 assumptions that act as indictments not only for Amy Cooper, but for all who suffer from the bane and blessing of white privilege.
“The only reason for racism’s persistence is that white people continue to benefit from it.”
Fr. Massingale asks that white folks make this sentence their mantra, for it is only when we contritely offer this confession that this nation will ever make any real and legitimate progress toward eradicating racial injustice. He then goes on to describe what I like to think of as six ‘milestones’ that must be passed on the road to racial justice.
If you’ve read this far, then it’s time to send you to the link where you can read the article in its entirety: “The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it.” It is truly a passionate and scholarly essay that deserves the attention of every white person. It should read especially eloquent to those of us who profess to emulate the words and deeds of the brown-skinned figure who was lynched on a Friday long ago so that all God’s children might experience life in all its abundance. May his Spirit lead us along the Kingdom’s Way toward building a more perfect Union.
P.S. To see a heartfelt response to Fr. Massingale’s article from Jamie Manson, read We Must All Say ‘Black Lives Matter’.