Dwell In My Love
A Pastoral Letter on Racism
by Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
2. Examining Our
Present Situation: How Do We Dwell Together?
The indwelling of the Holy Spirit instills within
us the desire to continue the mission of Jesus as his disciples.
The Spirit calls us to reflect about how we embody God's salvation
and his universal love in parishes and schools, in the Pastoral
Center and in other Catholic institutions. The Spirit moves us
to reflect on how to make that love visible in our neighborhoods
and places of business, in our work and recreation.
I invite all Catholics of the Archdiocese to examine
with me how our local Church reflects that unity in diversity,
which mirrors the nature of the Blessed Trinity. We cannot be
leavens of love and justice in a society fighting racism if we
are captured by the sin of racism in the Church.
Each of us needs to examine how we in the Archdiocese
respond to Jesus' prayer that we be one. How does the Archdiocese
manifest the unifying presence of the Spirit in the midst of the
racial and cultural, the gender and class, the religious, theological
and ideological diversity that characterizes our society?
For Chicago Catholics of a certain age, and for
some who are not Catholic too, seeking the answer to these questions
brings us back to patterns of life, which protected and nurtured
even as they also divided. "Where are you from?" could
not be answered simply with Hyde Park or Humboldt Park, the West
Side, the South Side, the Southeast Side, the Northwest Side or
Evanston. The answer that counted was St. Clement, St. James,
St. Thomas the Apostle, Holy Angels, Holy Cross, St. Anselm, St.
St. Stanislaus, Visitation, St. Sabina, St. Mel and Holy Ghost,
St. Malachy, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Matthew, Precious Blood,
St. Agatha, St. Boniface, St. Thomas More, St. Mary Magdalene,
St. Margaret of Scotland, or St. Nicholas. The parish -- the place
where Catholics attend Mass, confess their sins, send children
to school, watch children get married and bury their dead -- mattered
as much as official city designations.
The Baltimore Catechism, once memorized by generations
of Catholics, asked, "Where is God?" The answer was
"everywhere" and in Chicago, Catholic parishes seemed
to be everywhere. The fact that these parishes inspired loyalty
to a place and devotion to God is perhaps Chicago Catholicism's
great achievement. Catholic institutions have helped shape this
If strong parish communities remain today the glory
of Catholic life in Chicago and throughout Cook and Lake counties,
the way in which parish communities can become parish fortresses
was sometimes and can be still today a source of tragedy. For
too many Catholics during the decades just passed, "Where
are you from?" became an interrogation, not a gesture of
welcome. Some groups embraced ethnocentric patterns of exclusivity
and notions of racial superiority without considering the moral
implications or the psychological and emotional wounds inflicted
upon others. In some cases, the vision of faith was narrowed;
the community of faith became a private club.
Resistance to racial integration and culturally mixed communities
is as old as the first Christian communities, where Jewish Christians
and Greek Christians found themselves at odds. For Chicago Catholics,
cultural differences were especially important in the last decades
of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth
century, with the great migration of European Catholics to this
city. Chicago's "race" problem a century and more ago
was one of Germans versus Irish, Poles versus Germans, Christians
versus Jews, Protestants versus Catholics. My predecessors as
Archbishop sometimes addressed these disputes, spoke to Catholics
on their common membership in the Mystical Body of Christ and
preached intermittently against the sin of anti-Semitism. While
ethnic and cultural barriers somewhat diminished after the First
World War and the cut-off of mass immigration from Europe, the
ethnic identity of parishes remained strong.
Another mass migration, this one internal to the
country, presented more imposing challenges. Between the 1910's
and the 1960's hundreds of thousands of African Americans moved
to Chicago from the South. Forced to live on the near south and
west side of the city in often substandard housing owned by landlords
living elsewhere, many African American families that could afford
better housing could not move into nearby neighborhoods because
of the color of their skin. Catholics, loyal to their parishes,
often made up the bulk of the white population in neighborhoods
near the expanding African American sections of the city. Sometimes
these same Catholics mixed parish loyalty with racial prejudice
in a desperate, always unsuccessful, effort to "save"
particular neighborhoods by preventing the entrance of black people.
Another question became part of the conversation: "Where
are they now?" And everybody knew who "they" were
and knew, as well, which blocks were changing, sometimes almost
overnight, from white to black.
Many have heard the stories of priests, nuns and
lay people unwilling to welcome even Catholic African Americans
into parishes and schools.6 There are stories of Catholic politicians
working to sustain racial segregation in neighborhoods and in
the workplace and tales of fear that a school would be "ruined"
because Father or Sister allowed African American Catholics to
enroll their children. When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
marched in Chicago during the summer of 1966, he described the
racism and hatred he encountered as more "hostile" and
"hateful" than anything he had witnessed in the South.
Some of the neighborhoods he entered were home to Catholic parishioners.
In order to examine our present situation completely,
it seems important also to note that factors other than racial
prejudice enter into the history of resistance to integrated neighborhoods.
Most working class and middle class people, of any race or religion,
cherish their home as their biggest investment. Their house is
their legacy to their children. The destruction of the economic
value of their house is a threat to all that they have accomplished.
Unfortunately, white people have too often equated the racial
integration of a neighborhood with decreased property values.
Sometimes their fears were encouraged by real estate agents eager
to buy homes at prices far below their real value. Fear of economic
loss is not evidence of prejudice. Fear of losing one's life savings
is not the same as fear of a different race, but the two fears
can reinforce each other.
There is another fear that complicates this history:
the fear of violence. The desire to live without fear for one's
own safety and that of one's family is not evidence of racism.
Everyone shares the fear of violence. Prejudice is evident, however,
if it is simply assumed that people of another race must be violent
because they are who they are. White people might find themselves
afraid in a black neighborhood, but blacks have even more reason
to be afraid in many white neighborhoods. The original impetus
for this pastoral letter was the terrible beating of Lenard Clark
in 1997 and the Archdiocesan Task Force on Racism that responded
Unfortunately, the fears of economic loss and of
personal violence can blind people to what their Catholic faith
calls them to do-dwell together in love. These fears have to be
honestly addressed if we are to live in a genuinely multi-racial
and multi-cultural society.
That some Catholic priests, nuns and lay people, both black and
white, marched with Dr. King suggests another dimension to our
history. Long before the civil rights marches of the sixties,
the Catholic Church in Chicago was blessed with faith-filled people
eager to see the Catholic community welcome all cultures and races.
They were willing to sacrifice much in order to live in a genuinely
multi-racial society. Catholics of all races worked to integrate
Catholic and public institutions in the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's.
Chicago's African American Catholic community courageously insisted
that racism must have no place in the Church founded by Christ.
Some African Americans participated with great hope
in these local efforts; others contributed to the foundation and
development of the national black Catholic organizations.7 These
groups serve today as places where African American Catholics
work to develop leadership and institutions that nurture and sustain
the Catholic faith in a manner sensitive to black culture. They
are often places for prophetic voices within the church, speaking
against racism and cultural domination within Church and society.8
Sadly for all of us, some African Americans have left our Catholic
community to join other Christian faith communities, independent
"Catholic" churches or even Islam, in part because they
found it difficult to reconcile their own identity with manifestations
of racism within the Catholic Church.
The story in the almost forty years since the Rev.
Martin Luther King, Jr. marched through Chicago neighborhoods
is at once familiar and new. Racism is still found in varying
degrees in our churches and schools, just as it haunts our city
and suburbs. The combined influences of racial discrimination
and social isolation, at a moment when a wealthy society should
confront these problems directly, continue to make the plight
of many African Americans and other people of color Chicago's
greatest shame. Today, however, the careful way in which some
Catholic parishes in neighborhoods undergoing racial and cultural
transformation have begun to confront these changes directly is
a source of pride to me as Archbishop of Chicago.
While African Americans and other groups have made
much progress in education and employment, especially in the last
generation, race relations in the Chicago metropolitan area have
become more complicated as neighborhoods receive immigrants from
India, China, Africa, Vietnam, the Middle East, Latin America
and the Caribbean. They add new hues to Chicago's one largely
black and white picture. Contemporary racism has a multicultural
Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago now celebrate
Mass in more than twenty languages, making the Church of Chicago
more representative of the Church universal. One-third of the
city's residents are now either Spanish-speaking immigrants or
their descendants, from countries as diverse as Colombia, Puerto
Rico, Cuba and Mexico. The dramatic increase in the population
of Hispanic Catholics in the entire metropolitan area has not
prevented them from experiencing the effects of racism. "While
Hispanic Americans have not endured slavery, they too have been
a conquered people and systematically excluded from the mainstream
American society because of prejudice, racism, and segregation."10
For Catholics, however, the stability of our parish
institutions, the fact that Catholic parishes typically serve
the people within a given territory and not a self-chosen congregation,
offers unusual opportunities. Despite economic problems, the Archdiocese
has tried to maintain a Catholic presence in urban neighborhoods
populated by African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and people with
roots in various European countries. Through the Parish Sharing
Program, some Catholic parishes in affluent areas have formed
partnerships with parishes serving poor neighborhoods. This sharing
springs from the conviction born of faith that we are many parts
of the one Body of Christ, which is the Church.
As the answer to the question, "Where are you
from?" becomes more complicated, we should realize that the
future of race relations in Chicago and its surrounding communities
is tied to how willing we are as Catholics to live and worship
in parishes that are diverse communities of faith, anchoring neighborhoods
where all people can live together as members of the one human
Four Types of Racism: Spatial, Institutional, Internalized and
The face of racism looks different today than it
did thirty years ago.11 Overt racism is easily condemned, but
the sin is often with us in more subtle forms. In examining patterns
of racism today, four forms of racism merit particular attention:
spatial racism, institutional racism, internalized racism and
Spatial racism refers to patterns of metropolitan development
in which some affluent whites create racially and economically
segregated suburbs or gentrified areas of cities, leaving the
poor -- mainly African Americans, Hispanics and some newly arrived
immigrants -- isolated in deteriorating areas of the cities and
Myron Orfield,12 the Leadership Council for Metropolitan
Open Communities, and other experts have documented the devastating
impact of massive economic disparities between communities and
of isolating people geographically according to race, religion
and class.13 These disparities undermine the regional economy
and the moral basis of the metropolitan area. Spatial racism creates
a visible chasm between the rich and the poor, and between white
people and people of color. It marks a society that contradicts
both the teachings of the Church and our declared national value
of equality of opportunity. Orfield and William Julius Wilson
have noted the economic inequities which result from this form
of racism: lack of decent affordable housing; withdrawal of home
mortgage funds; public schools with inadequate staff, faculty,
physical quarters and supplies; decaying infrastructure; lack
of capital investment for business and commerce; little or no
opportunities for jobs near home and insufficient public transit
to jobs in the suburbs.14
The spatial racism of our society creates a similar
pattern in the Church. Geographically based parishes reflect the
racial and cultural segregation patterns of neighborhoods and
Racism also finds institutional form. Patterns of social and
racial superiority continue as long as no one asks why they should
be taken for granted. People who assume, consciously or unconsciously,
that white people are superior create and sustain institutions
that privilege people like themselves and habitually ignore the
contributions of other peoples and cultures. This "white
privilege" often goes undetected because it has become internalized
and integrated as part of one's outlook on the world by custom,
habit and tradition. It can be seen in most of our institutions:
judicial and political systems, social clubs, associations, hospitals,
universities, labor unions, small and large businesses, major
corporations, the professions, sports teams and in the arts. In
the Church as well, "
all too often in the very places
where blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians are numerous,
the Church's officials and representatives, both clerical and
laity, are predominantly white."15
Sometimes, with a genuine desire to be more inclusive,
one or two black, Hispanic, Asian or Native Americans are asked
to fill leadership positions in order to change the internal culture
of an institution. But the racist disposition of the institution
can remain largely unaltered when the non-whites do not acquire
full participatory rights. Without rising to levels of influence
that can change the entrenched attitudes, approaches and goals
of the institution, they live with and even have to preside over
policies, procedures and regulations that leave the institution
in a basically racist mode. Often, when these select few people
of color exhibit qualities of morality, intelligence and skills,
which contradict the low expectations of the racial stereotypes
applied to their cultural groups, they are viewed as "exceptional
Indifference to rates of violence against the lives of blacks,
Hispanics, Asians and Native peoples is another sign of institutional
racism. "Abortion rates are much higher among the poor and
people of color than among the middle class. As a result of abortion,
the United States is a far less diverse place."16 Racism
is also visible in imprisonment and in the administration of the
death penalty. There are a disproportionate number of blacks,
Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans and low-income persons
from all ethnic and racial groups on death row. "[Such] defendants
are more likely to be sentenced to death than white defendants,
for the same crimes."17 Other areas where institutional racism
finds a home are in health care, education and housing.
Many blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans are socialized
and educated in institutions which devalue the presence and contributions
of people of color and celebrate only the contributions of whites.
Because of their socialization within the dominant racial and
cultural system, people of color can come to see themselves and
their communities primarily through the eyes of that dominant
culture. They receive little or no information about their own
history and culture and perceive themselves and their communities
as "culturally deprived." Seeing few men and women from
their own culture or class in leadership roles, they begin to
apply to themselves the negative stereotypes about their group
that the dominant culture chooses to believe.
Unlike spatial and institutionalized racism, which are more
public in nature, individual racism perpetuates itself quietly
when people grow up with a sense of white racial superiority,
whether conscious or unconscious. Racist attitudes find expression
in racial slurs, in crimes born of racial hatred and in many
other subtle and not so subtle ways. People that are horrified
by the Ku Klux Klan might quite readily subscribe to racial stereotypes
about people of color.
Poor, middle class and upper class people of all
cultural groups often demonstrate feelings of prejudice toward
people of a different national, cultural or economic background.
Some adopt a "skin-color, racial hierarchy" both within
and outside their own cultural group. When individuals automatically
award superior status to their own cultural group and inferior
status to all those outside it, they are acting as racists.
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