In a matter of days, the simmering racial tension that rests just below the surface of our nation ignited into an inferno of outrage. In great personal pain, I have seen the city of my birth, the neighborhood in which I was raised and the city I now serve destroyed and burned. Am I horrified at what I have seen? Yes. But am I surprised? No.
The horrible deaths of Ahmaud Arbery of Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and George Floyd in Minneapolis have incensed our communities — and rightly so. These deaths and other incidents in recent years around the country are just the latest chapter to deep-seated problems in our nation that must be addressed without further delay.
Too many in our communities feel that their voices are not being heard and their complaints about racist treatment continue unheeded, which understandably causes them to feel outraged. We recognize and support their passionate feelings.
The recent protests both across our country and beyond have shone a spotlight on racism, exposing it for what it is: an ongoing life issue that needs our immediate attention. Even when unintentional, racism permeates our society. We need to help identify it and work together to resolve the situation.
Among those recognizing that this is the time to address the issue of racism is the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the accompanying special report, several bishops who chair USCCB committees share their thoughts. Even Pope Francis weighed in, assuring the bishops of his prayers and support as they deal with the unrest across the country.
Last year, when the USCCB released its pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” the Diocese of Cleveland was among the dioceses that hosted a listening session, sharing information about the situation and possible steps to address it.
The bishops agree that “People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option,” they said. “As bishops, we unequivocally state that racism is a life issue.” We must remember to respond in the love and spirit of Christ and the joy of the Gospel. I close with the words of the prophet Micah, “The Lord requires of you only to do right, love goodness and walk humbly with God.” (Mi 6:8)
Cary W. Dabney is director of the Office of Ministry to African American Catholics for the Diocese of Cleveland