Racism and White Privilege

A reflection by Betsy Wiest,
SSJ Agregee and Social Justice Coordinator

We have all been affected by recent events in our world:
the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests, marches, and vigils following the death of George Floyd. These events have left us breathless, angry, confused, and seeking direction. The Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania released a statement calling for unity and an end to the violence that has surrounded racism.

Through it all, public officials and leaders in our faith communities have spoken out. We have discussed this with our families, friends, and neighbors. We see COVID-19 and racism covered each day in the local and national news media. We are living in a time of great difficulty, but we are also living in a time with the potential for great growth and a better understanding of each other. Maybe we will finally listen to each other. As painful as it may be, I see us beginning to “walk with” in this listening. Maybe this painful experience will help us to really become one. Maybe it’s time in our history to work together, accept one another, and love one another as Jesus taught us, so we can prevent this deep-rooted prejudice from rearing its ugly head again.

I believe we are at a tipping point. We have mourned many deaths resulting from angry white people who have taken the lives of black people and gotten away with it. COVID-19 has shown us that our future is dependent on how we treat one another, and how we care for our dear neighbor without distinction. It is time for us to listen to those in pain so we can understand how they are feeling and how we, as a society, need to acknowledge how we may unknowingly hurt others.

The Assumptions of White Privilege and What We Can Do About It is an excellent article by Fr. Bryan Massingale, a well-known Black theologian who writes and speaks about racism. His article will help us to better understand ourselves and others so we can work together for the common good. (Also available at ncronline.com)

We recently celebrated Pentecost. As you reflect on racism, take a few breaths and as you slowly inhale, pray, “Come Holy Spirit.” As you slowly exhale, be mindful of the power of the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth.

Today, I continue to hold you, our country, and our world in my prayers. During this uncomfortable time, I wish you safety and continued good health as we continue to “walk with” our dear neighbor.

One Comment on “Racism and White Privilege”

  1. Dear Sister, After reading your article on racism in the world I thought back to 1960 when the US had racism situations occurring. I am a 20 year United States Air Force Senior Master Sergeant, Retired. My sister is a Sister of Saint Joseph of Western Pennsylvania (Sister Josette Gocella) and I come from an American-Italian Family. (Born in America of an Italian Immigrant parent and an American first, since this is where I was born)

    During the sixties and in the United States Air Force, we instituted a Program named, ‘Race Relations Training’. This program was mandatory for all middle and senior supervision to attend a 3 day seminar yearly and learn about Race Relations, how to supervise’ get along with everyone and how it has affected our society. Over 50 years of race relations training is still going on and is mandatory. If the various Police Organizations and others would institute this type of program it certainly would help. As an Air Force Supervisor I can attest to this program and how it affected positively, millions of Airmen in the Air Force.

    A case in point: In one instruction class we had a subject brought up regarding that how ‘News Broadcasting’ is ‘very racial’! This is true even today. When reporting a robbery, shooting, altercation or anything the police respond to, the News Broadcasters say ‘A /White/Black/Asian man/woman robbed a mini market’ on such and such street today. Rather than say “a Male, 5′ 10″, weighing 200 lbs, approximately … many years old, dark hair color and wearing……” would have been more appropriate and non- racial. This is just one example of how racism has affected our society. Being 81 years old and living throughout the world with all ethnic peoples I have experienced Discrimination and Racism in the workplace and in the cities we lived.

    Since so many people listen and watch the news daily on the TV or their Tablets/Phones, they know first hand how the News is reported. Immediately upon watching/listening I find the start of racial profiling in these broadcasts. Listen to them in the future and you will recognize this problem starting with News Broadcasting. All businesses should start having Race Relations training for those in the Media and Supervisors of Businesses just as the United States Air Force and all Military Services have starting in the 1960’s and we would have a better World. Be Kind!

    Years ago, when I came home from the Vietnam War, my Father and I were talking and he said during a discussion as I just explained. ( I had given him a scenario of racism.) ‘When we were little we had three ‘Colored Families’ in our little town that we grew up played, went to church and school with and we didn’t have any racial problems’. This terminology is how we used to refer to people of Color. This statement in itself, is a form of Racism since we used to refer to ‘Black’s as Colored’. When my Father and I were discussing this I asked him: “What Color were they who you went to school with, played with and went to church with? ” He replied Black! That is when I told him this statement is the first action of a racial problem and you didn’t even realize it, just like the News Broadcasters don’t recognize their problems with their reporting the news. Just a thought. Thanks and keep up the good work. God Bless You!

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