Following the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who on Tuesday was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd, Black Catholic leaders say it's a "small start" in both the country and the church's long overdue efforts for racial justice.
"It's a small start," said Ralph McCloud, the director of the U.S. bishops' domestic anti-poverty program, Catholic Campaign for Human Development. "But I can't help but think what it took for us to get here."
"Millions of people had to see the video of Floyd's killing and then take to the streets in protest for many Americans to see how the systems are skewed against people of color," McCloud told NCR. "So many other trials that are looming and so many other trials that have passed didn't have the luxury of this kind of exposure."
McCloud said he hopes the national attention of the trial causes a reckoning within "Catholic parishes, diocesan offices, chanceries and across the board."
"If we're quiet, we're complicit," he said, adding that Catholic institutions need to ask themselves what "makes people disregard and disrespect human life because of their race?"
On the evening of Feb. 25, the St. Louis Archdiocese sent an email announcing Trinity Catholic High School would close at the end of the academic year. A letter attached to the email said that enrollment at the school, located in a predominantly African American area just a 15-minute drive from Ferguson, Missouri, had slipped too low and the building was too old to maintain.
Kimora Williams, 17, came to Trinity for the reasons many other Black students do: The academics were better than at the nearby public schools, but Trinity also felt like a family. Now, Williams feels betrayed.
"I do feel that the archdiocese has abandoned the community, especially a community that is predominantly Black," Williams said. "I feel that it is racially motivated for them to close us, because I feel like if it was in a predominantly white neighborhood that would never be a choice."
Trinity is just one of the hundreds of Catholic schools to be shuttered since the pandemic began, but the school, which teachers say is more than 80% African American, highlights another trend: Schools serving Black students are more likely to close.
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