August 1, 2020 | Opinion

Reflections on racism


Racism arises when—either consciously or unconsciously—a person holds that his or her own race or ethnicity is superior, and therefore judges persons of other races or ethnicities as inferior and unworthy of equal regard. When this conviction or attitude leads individuals or groups to exclude, ridicule, mistreat, or unjustly discriminate against persons on the basis of their race or ethnicity, it is sinful. Racist acts are sinful because they violate justice.”

 “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love – A Pastoral Letter Against Racism” | The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2018

 Racism is “… a human, pastoral and spiritual problem.”

 Bishop Shelton J. Fabre, chairman the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ad hoc committee against racism and one of the writers for the USCCB’s pastoral letter “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love” during a Sept. 19, 2019 presentation at St. Stephen Cathedral in Owensboro 

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21

Black lives matter! Blacks have fought for America’s freedom in every war since the Revolutionary War. We have proudly built and contributed in many ways, on every level, to the excellence of the United States of America and to the Catholic Church – as slaves and eventually as citizens. It is time for an acknowledgement that we are inferior to no one and that we are truly full-fledged members of the family of God.

If we open our hearts and minds, we can all benefit from sharing the gifts of the Holy Spirit as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is by God’s grace that this generation is actively starting the process of racial healing and fostering love and respect for one another. Let us pray for healing in our Church and in our community and for the first Black American candidates for sainthood: Venerable Fr. Augustus Tolton, Venerable Henriette DeLille, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, Mother Mary Lange, Sister Thea Bowman and Julia Greeley.

Were you shocked or angered by that video of the deliberate murder of a man, George Floyd, pleading for his life and calling out for his mother? And Breonna Taylor was not the first young Black woman killed by police in her own home. Complicit silence is just as lethal as perpetration of heinous acts. So, let our growing awareness motivate us to seek healing of the sin of racism in our Church and in our communities.

Institutional or systemic racism, the tool of White Supremacy, has us gripped in the throes of racial hatred and injustice as violent and cruel as the eras of slavery (1619- 1865), Jim Crowe (1865-1965) and the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s and 70s, including White Supremacist killings/lynching of Blacks into this day. Many perpetrators are active duty police officers who have no respect for Black lives as evidenced by even the most recent killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and those prior to and thereafter as the police in certain localities continue this murderous anti-life behavior which is sinister and not Christian.

Historically, Blacks do survive and begin to thrive despite the impediments that they face. Numerous historical incidents will bear this out, such as the massacres in Colfax, La. (1873); Wilmington, N.C. (1898); Atlanta, Ga. (1906); Elaine, Ark. (1919);  Black Wall Street Massacre in Tulsa, Okla. (1921) and Rosewood, Fla. (1923).

Let us be thankful for the leadership of our shepherd, Bishop Medley, in these times of racial strife, who reminds us of the Church’s perspective on racism and pray that other Christian leaders will also speak out.

Finally, let us always remember in prayer those first responders and law enforcement officers in our community who help keep us safe.

Veronica Wilhite is the director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry for the Diocese of Owensboro. Learn more at

Originally printed in the August 2020 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.


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Publisher |  Bishop William F. Medley
Editor |  Elizabeth Wong Barnstead
Contributors |  Riley Greif, Rachel Hall
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