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Dwell In My Love
A Pastoral Letter on Racism
by Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

2. Examining Our Present Situation: How Do We Dwell Together?

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit instills within us the desire to continue the mission of Jesus as his disciples. The Spirit calls us to reflect about how we embody God's salvation and his universal love in parishes and schools, in the Pastoral Center and in other Catholic institutions. The Spirit moves us to reflect on how to make that love visible in our neighborhoods and places of business, in our work and recreation.

I invite all Catholics of the Archdiocese to examine with me how our local Church reflects that unity in diversity, which mirrors the nature of the Blessed Trinity. We cannot be leavens of love and justice in a society fighting racism if we are captured by the sin of racism in the Church.

Each of us needs to examine how we in the Archdiocese respond to Jesus' prayer that we be one. How does the Archdiocese manifest the unifying presence of the Spirit in the midst of the racial and cultural, the gender and class, the religious, theological and ideological diversity that characterizes our society?

For Chicago Catholics of a certain age, and for some who are not Catholic too, seeking the answer to these questions brings us back to patterns of life, which protected and nurtured even as they also divided. "Where are you from?" could not be answered simply with Hyde Park or Humboldt Park, the West Side, the South Side, the Southeast Side, the Northwest Side or Evanston. The answer that counted was St. Clement, St. James, St. Thomas the Apostle, Holy Angels, Holy Cross, St. Anselm, St. Elizabeth,
St. Stanislaus, Visitation, St. Sabina, St. Mel and Holy Ghost, St. Malachy, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Matthew, Precious Blood, St. Agatha, St. Boniface, St. Thomas More, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Margaret of Scotland, or St. Nicholas. The parish -- the place where Catholics attend Mass, confess their sins, send children to school, watch children get married and bury their dead -- mattered as much as official city designations.

The Baltimore Catechism, once memorized by generations of Catholics, asked, "Where is God?" The answer was "everywhere" and in Chicago, Catholic parishes seemed to be everywhere. The fact that these parishes inspired loyalty to a place and devotion to God is perhaps Chicago Catholicism's great achievement. Catholic institutions have helped shape this area's story.

If strong parish communities remain today the glory of Catholic life in Chicago and throughout Cook and Lake counties, the way in which parish communities can become parish fortresses was sometimes and can be still today a source of tragedy. For too many Catholics during the decades just passed, "Where are you from?" became an interrogation, not a gesture of welcome. Some groups embraced ethnocentric patterns of exclusivity and notions of racial superiority without considering the moral implications or the psychological and emotional wounds inflicted upon others. In some cases, the vision of faith was narrowed; the community of faith became a private club.

Resistance to racial integration and culturally mixed communities is as old as the first Christian communities, where Jewish Christians and Greek Christians found themselves at odds. For Chicago Catholics, cultural differences were especially important in the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century, with the great migration of European Catholics to this city. Chicago's "race" problem a century and more ago was one of Germans versus Irish, Poles versus Germans, Christians versus Jews, Protestants versus Catholics. My predecessors as Archbishop sometimes addressed these disputes, spoke to Catholics on their common membership in the Mystical Body of Christ and preached intermittently against the sin of anti-Semitism. While ethnic and cultural barriers somewhat diminished after the First World War and the cut-off of mass immigration from Europe, the ethnic identity of parishes remained strong.

Another mass migration, this one internal to the country, presented more imposing challenges. Between the 1910's and the 1960's hundreds of thousands of African Americans moved to Chicago from the South. Forced to live on the near south and west side of the city in often substandard housing owned by landlords living elsewhere, many African American families that could afford better housing could not move into nearby neighborhoods because of the color of their skin. Catholics, loyal to their parishes, often made up the bulk of the white population in neighborhoods near the expanding African American sections of the city. Sometimes these same Catholics mixed parish loyalty with racial prejudice in a desperate, always unsuccessful, effort to "save" particular neighborhoods by preventing the entrance of black people. Another question became part of the conversation: "Where are they now?" And everybody knew who "they" were and knew, as well, which blocks were changing, sometimes almost overnight, from white to black.

Many have heard the stories of priests, nuns and lay people unwilling to welcome even Catholic African Americans into parishes and schools.6 There are stories of Catholic politicians working to sustain racial segregation in neighborhoods and in the workplace and tales of fear that a school would be "ruined" because Father or Sister allowed African American Catholics to enroll their children. When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched in Chicago during the summer of 1966, he described the racism and hatred he encountered as more "hostile" and "hateful" than anything he had witnessed in the South. Some of the neighborhoods he entered were home to Catholic parishioners.

In order to examine our present situation completely, it seems important also to note that factors other than racial prejudice enter into the history of resistance to integrated neighborhoods. Most working class and middle class people, of any race or religion, cherish their home as their biggest investment. Their house is their legacy to their children. The destruction of the economic value of their house is a threat to all that they have accomplished. Unfortunately, white people have too often equated the racial integration of a neighborhood with decreased property values. Sometimes their fears were encouraged by real estate agents eager to buy homes at prices far below their real value. Fear of economic loss is not evidence of prejudice. Fear of losing one's life savings is not the same as fear of a different race, but the two fears can reinforce each other.

There is another fear that complicates this history: the fear of violence. The desire to live without fear for one's own safety and that of one's family is not evidence of racism. Everyone shares the fear of violence. Prejudice is evident, however, if it is simply assumed that people of another race must be violent because they are who they are. White people might find themselves afraid in a black neighborhood, but blacks have even more reason to be afraid in many white neighborhoods. The original impetus for this pastoral letter was the terrible beating of Lenard Clark in 1997 and the Archdiocesan Task Force on Racism that responded to it.

Unfortunately, the fears of economic loss and of personal violence can blind people to what their Catholic faith calls them to do-dwell together in love. These fears have to be honestly addressed if we are to live in a genuinely multi-racial and multi-cultural society.

That some Catholic priests, nuns and lay people, both black and white, marched with Dr. King suggests another dimension to our history. Long before the civil rights marches of the sixties, the Catholic Church in Chicago was blessed with faith-filled people eager to see the Catholic community welcome all cultures and races. They were willing to sacrifice much in order to live in a genuinely multi-racial society. Catholics of all races worked to integrate Catholic and public institutions in the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's. Chicago's African American Catholic community courageously insisted that racism must have no place in the Church founded by Christ.

Some African Americans participated with great hope in these local efforts; others contributed to the foundation and development of the national black Catholic organizations.7 These groups serve today as places where African American Catholics work to develop leadership and institutions that nurture and sustain the Catholic faith in a manner sensitive to black culture. They are often places for prophetic voices within the church, speaking against racism and cultural domination within Church and society.8 Sadly for all of us, some African Americans have left our Catholic community to join other Christian faith communities, independent "Catholic" churches or even Islam, in part because they found it difficult to reconcile their own identity with manifestations of racism within the Catholic Church.

The story in the almost forty years since the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched through Chicago neighborhoods is at once familiar and new. Racism is still found in varying degrees in our churches and schools, just as it haunts our city and suburbs. The combined influences of racial discrimination and social isolation, at a moment when a wealthy society should confront these problems directly, continue to make the plight of many African Americans and other people of color Chicago's greatest shame. Today, however, the careful way in which some Catholic parishes in neighborhoods undergoing racial and cultural transformation have begun to confront these changes directly is a source of pride to me as Archbishop of Chicago.

While African Americans and other groups have made much progress in education and employment, especially in the last generation, race relations in the Chicago metropolitan area have become more complicated as neighborhoods receive immigrants from India, China, Africa, Vietnam, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean. They add new hues to Chicago's one largely black and white picture. Contemporary racism has a multicultural face.9

Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago now celebrate Mass in more than twenty languages, making the Church of Chicago more representative of the Church universal. One-third of the city's residents are now either Spanish-speaking immigrants or their descendants, from countries as diverse as Colombia, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Mexico. The dramatic increase in the population of Hispanic Catholics in the entire metropolitan area has not prevented them from experiencing the effects of racism. "While Hispanic Americans have not endured slavery, they too have been a conquered people and systematically excluded from the mainstream American society because of prejudice, racism, and segregation."10

For Catholics, however, the stability of our parish institutions, the fact that Catholic parishes typically serve the people within a given territory and not a self-chosen congregation, offers unusual opportunities. Despite economic problems, the Archdiocese has tried to maintain a Catholic presence in urban neighborhoods populated by African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and people with roots in various European countries. Through the Parish Sharing Program, some Catholic parishes in affluent areas have formed partnerships with parishes serving poor neighborhoods. This sharing springs from the conviction born of faith that we are many parts of the one Body of Christ, which is the Church.

As the answer to the question, "Where are you from?" becomes more complicated, we should realize that the future of race relations in Chicago and its surrounding communities is tied to how willing we are as Catholics to live and worship in parishes that are diverse communities of faith, anchoring neighborhoods where all people can live together as members of the one human family.

Four Types of Racism: Spatial, Institutional, Internalized and Individual

The face of racism looks different today than it did thirty years ago.11 Overt racism is easily condemned, but the sin is often with us in more subtle forms. In examining patterns of racism today, four forms of racism merit particular attention: spatial racism, institutional racism, internalized racism and individual racism.


Spatial Racism
Spatial racism refers to patterns of metropolitan development in which some affluent whites create racially and economically segregated suburbs or gentrified areas of cities, leaving the poor -- mainly African Americans, Hispanics and some newly arrived immigrants -- isolated in deteriorating areas of the cities and older suburbs.

Myron Orfield,12 the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, and other experts have documented the devastating impact of massive economic disparities between communities and of isolating people geographically according to race, religion and class.13 These disparities undermine the regional economy and the moral basis of the metropolitan area. Spatial racism creates a visible chasm between the rich and the poor, and between white people and people of color. It marks a society that contradicts both the teachings of the Church and our declared national value of equality of opportunity. Orfield and William Julius Wilson have noted the economic inequities which result from this form of racism: lack of decent affordable housing; withdrawal of home mortgage funds; public schools with inadequate staff, faculty, physical quarters and supplies; decaying infrastructure; lack of capital investment for business and commerce; little or no opportunities for jobs near home and insufficient public transit to jobs in the suburbs.14

The spatial racism of our society creates a similar pattern in the Church. Geographically based parishes reflect the racial and cultural segregation patterns of neighborhoods and towns.


Institutional Racism
Racism also finds institutional form. Patterns of social and racial superiority continue as long as no one asks why they should be taken for granted. People who assume, consciously or unconsciously, that white people are superior create and sustain institutions that privilege people like themselves and habitually ignore the contributions of other peoples and cultures. This "white privilege" often goes undetected because it has become internalized and integrated as part of one's outlook on the world by custom, habit and tradition. It can be seen in most of our institutions: judicial and political systems, social clubs, associations, hospitals, universities, labor unions, small and large businesses, major corporations, the professions, sports teams and in the arts. In the Church as well, "…all too often in the very places where blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians are numerous, the Church's officials and representatives, both clerical and laity, are predominantly white."15

Sometimes, with a genuine desire to be more inclusive, one or two black, Hispanic, Asian or Native Americans are asked to fill leadership positions in order to change the internal culture of an institution. But the racist disposition of the institution can remain largely unaltered when the non-whites do not acquire full participatory rights. Without rising to levels of influence that can change the entrenched attitudes, approaches and goals of the institution, they live with and even have to preside over policies, procedures and regulations that leave the institution in a basically racist mode. Often, when these select few people of color exhibit qualities of morality, intelligence and skills, which contradict the low expectations of the racial stereotypes applied to their cultural groups, they are viewed as "exceptional anomalies."


Indifference to rates of violence against the lives of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native peoples is another sign of institutional racism. "Abortion rates are much higher among the poor and people of color than among the middle class. As a result of abortion, the United States is a far less diverse place."16 Racism is also visible in imprisonment and in the administration of the death penalty. There are a disproportionate number of blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans and low-income persons from all ethnic and racial groups on death row. "[Such] defendants are more likely to be sentenced to death than white defendants, for the same crimes."17 Other areas where institutional racism finds a home are in health care, education and housing.


Internalized Racism
Many blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans are socialized and educated in institutions which devalue the presence and contributions of people of color and celebrate only the contributions of whites. Because of their socialization within the dominant racial and cultural system, people of color can come to see themselves and their communities primarily through the eyes of that dominant culture. They receive little or no information about their own history and culture and perceive themselves and their communities as "culturally deprived." Seeing few men and women from their own culture or class in leadership roles, they begin to apply to themselves the negative stereotypes about their group that the dominant culture chooses to believe.


Individual Racism
Unlike spatial and institutionalized racism, which are more public in nature, individual racism perpetuates itself quietly when people grow up with a sense of white racial superiority, whether conscious or unconscious. Racist attitudes find expression in racial slurs, in crimes born of racial hatred and in many
other subtle and not so subtle ways. People that are horrified by the Ku Klux Klan might quite readily subscribe to racial stereotypes about people of color.

Poor, middle class and upper class people of all cultural groups often demonstrate feelings of prejudice toward people of a different national, cultural or economic background. Some adopt a "skin-color, racial hierarchy" both within and outside their own cultural group. When individuals automatically award superior status to their own cultural group and inferior status to all those outside it, they are acting as racists.

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