Guest Commentary – June 29, 2020


After protests, work for racial justice

— Effie Caldarola, Catholic News Service

I grew up in farm country where community was maintained by certain customs.

If a farmer was taken seriously ill or died near harvest time, a cadre of neighboring farmers would appear to take in his harvest and deliver it to the mill. No questions asked.

Likewise, if there was a death in your family, food in copious amounts would arrive at your door. Sometimes people are tongue-tied expressing condolences or reticent about hugs. So, handing someone a ham, a cake or those ubiquitous casseroles was a neighbor’s way of saying, “I’m sorry for your trouble.”

Many of us are looking at the current moment in our nation’s history and wondering, what can I do? The response for many — for millions — has been to show support by showing up at memorials, protests, peaceful demonstrations.

It has been inspiring to see the crowds, the banners, the Black Lives Matter painted on the boulevard near the White House. It’s as if a sleeping giant has been aroused, an America we’ve been yearning to see.

But in the “what can I do” category, a protest is sort of a national way of delivering a casserole. It’s heartfelt, it’s well-meaning, it’s important and it needs to be done. But it’s a gesture that must be followed by more.

Maybe now we need to bring in the harvest.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Lightning makes no sound until it strikes.” Boom. We’ve seen the strike, we’ve heard the thunder.

Now we have work to do.

We’re called to examine our entire criminal justice system, the housing discrimination that was systemic and state-sanctioned even as black American soldiers came home from World War II.

We still have much de facto segregation in housing and schools. And in our Church. Remember the old adage that the most segregated hour in America begins at 11 a.m. on Sunday? Still true.

We feel frustration and anger. We can’t do everything. But maybe we can do something.

The heroes of every movement toward freedom did not spend time in anger. Righteous anger, yes, but not the soul-eroding kind that ties you up in knots. Not the social media, personal insults kind of anger.

We begin with prayer. That’s a given. Does my day include silence and reflection? If not, why not? Starting first with an encounter with that rebel Jesus helps me to ask for guidance and listen.

Showing up at the ballot box is another given. Am I educated about the candidates, especially the down ticket ones that I may not know much about? Much change begins locally.

Educate myself. Someone said, “Information is power, but you decide what to do with it.” I have my senators and congressperson in my phone contacts, and they hear from me often.

Let’s be in touch with our pastors and our bishop. Encourage homilies and prayers of the faithful that support life issues of concern to our Church, including abolishing the death penalty, climate concerns and racial justice.

Jesus said, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” (Lk 10:2). The country is ripe for change. Let’s do our part.

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