Religion and Race: The Future of Anti-Racism and the Catholic Church
The killing of George Floyd sparked a renewed racial justice reckoning in our nation. The national response to police violence against Black Americans has affected our country and communities in a way previously unseen in a generation. These recent events have led our communities to examine more closely the impact that injustice and racism have on an individual, structural, and institutional level. As a result, more young Catholics have begun to engage in difficult conversations about the history and present reality of racism in the U.S. Catholic Church. This virtual Theology on Tap brought together a panel of young Black Catholic leaders to engage challenging questions about the spiritual and practical actions needed to work towards a culture of anti-racism, which values the equal dignity of every human life. The panel discussed the history of racism within the U.S. Catholic Church, how racial injustice exists in our communities today, the role of white privilege, and practical ways that Church leaders and young Catholics can work towards a more anti-racist and racially just Church. Four Black Catholic leaders explored questions such as: How has our nation’s history of racism influenced our understanding and structures of racism in the Catholic Church? How is racial injustice present in the Church today? How does white privilege play a role in propagating complacency with racism in our Church communities? What are practical steps that Catholics in leadership and in the pews can take towards a culture of anti-racism in our parishes and communities? In what ways can young Catholics actively work towards anti-racism and be true advocates for racial justice? Panelists Ogechi Akalegbere is a Nigerian-American who is the host, executive editor, and content creator for the podcast Tell Me, If You Can. She also works as the Christian service coordinator at Connelly School of the Holy Child. Fr. Robert Boxie is the chaplain at Howard University and the priest-in-residence at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Washington, DC. He had been the parochial vicar at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Largo, Maryland, since July 2017. Gerald Smith, Jr. is the principal at St. Thomas More Catholic Academy in Washington, DC, where he previously taught 4th-8th grade science. He formerly taught at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland. Shannen Dee Williams is the Albert Lepage Assistant Professor of History at Villanova University. She is the author of a forthcoming book with the working title Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle.