Sunday, June 7, 2020
Trying to Make Some Sense
Last Sunday morning, because of the outrage raging through our cities, which quickly turned violent, I decided to celebrate another Mass, even though we had celebrated and live streamed the Saturday evening Mass. I expressed how I want to believe that the violent people looting and damaging property are separate from the people who are simply saying “enough” to the police brutality and oppression of black people in this country. I don’t know that for a fact, and there are video clips and pictures that could frame a story either way. There are probably more than two sides, and probably several underlying interests seeking further division in our country. Therefore, let us remain peaceful with each other, and let us converse with peace.
While I am glad that the peaceful protests are clearly raising awareness to the grave sin of social injustice in matters of race, I am also saddened by the people who say that there is no racism, and I am angered by the looters who are stealing from businesses and damaging property of innocent people.
Last Sunday morning we celebrated Pentecost, which is a feast with overtones about diversity because in the first reading from Acts of the Apostles, we heard about how the disciples by the gift of the Holy Spirit were speaking in the languages of many nations, and foreigners could hear God being praised in their own native tongue.
I am grateful to this country for welcoming my family and I as immigrants, and for allowing us to make it our home. When people ask me, “when are you going home?” and they mean “Colombia,” I explain that this country is my home now. For certain neighbors it has taken them longer to welcome my family and I, but overall I have experienced that an overwhelming majority of people in this country truly do not care about the color of the skin of others.
Therefore the people who question the Black Lives Matter movement are not necessarily racist when they say that White Lives Matter too. I agree that all lives matter. We are all created in God’s image. What the protests are trying to say is that it happens too often that law enforcement kills an unarmed black man. What begins in a simple questioning, escalates into excessive use of force, and often ends in the killing of the person. This happens again and again to black men around this country, much like Mass shootings happen again and again every year or every other year.
I think that such a phenomenon behooves us in asking why it happens, and thinking deeply beyond our own individual views, which can easily excuse us by saying “I’m not racist, so I’m OK.” Perhaps one place to look into is how Police officers are trained and later assigned, and whether there are community relations established in urban areas where the minority are white people, and what policies are in place regarding accountability and transparency when wrongdoing occurs. Nowadays cameras are playing a big role into transparency. What else could there be?
I also try to put myself in the shoes of police officers. I try to understand that in a high adrenaline situation it is very easy for officers to overreact. In such situations, they are trying to protect their life. I admire police officers for the work they do. The question I have is whether there are policies in place that will help prevent police abuse of power, and accountability once abuse has been committed.
The Catholic Church has been working on the very same problem of preventative procedures and better accountability and transparency when it comes to sexual abuse of minors, so I am hopeful that if the Church could face its own demons that Police departments will be able to do so as well.
In Christ, Fr. Carlos, OSA