The following continues our series of reflections on our Parish Statement on Racism:
“In our own neighborhood, housing values and rents have risen significantly, which have decreased the number of people able to afford to live here. Because of class disparities, the rise in housing costs has caused diminished racial integration in Shaw. Our diversity has diminished, but it hasn’t been eliminated. In our segregated metro area it’s imperative that we celebrate and multiply the blessing of diversity that is still ours by inviting, welcoming, and embracing ALL of our neighbors into our parish community. To that end, we have the additional tremendous blessing of a parish school, with a Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, and an Inclusion and Equity PTA Subcommittee, which can provide great opportunities for all children and their families to see a more hopeful, inclusive future.” (from St. Margaret of Scotland Parish Statement on Racism)
We who live in the parish boundaries might be tempted to be a bit self-satisfied. After the interstate highways cut through the city, in the time that deep cracks were appearing in the walls of red-lining and rigid housing segregation, white flight galloped in St. Louis. For some people, including a fair number of multi-racial families, these demographic changes brought not only challenges, but opportunities and hope, for a neighborhood that might successfully balance racial and economic diversity.
In those unsettled years. stubbornly creative neighborhood folk acted to address communal needs: forming a strong and practical neighborhood association; engaging in door-to-door recruitment for our parish school, forming the inclusive All-Shaw Community Choir, volunteering to be part of a mobile patrol, identifying block captains and safe houses for children’s refuge, and establishing at St. Margaret of Scotland programs like “Reseeding the City ” and the Mandeville Multi-Cultural Scholarship Fund.
The area has succeeded in many ways. It retains the cachet of diversity, amenities abound, and property values have soared. We might be tempted to think that we have done well while doing good.
But, race and class are persistently complex. Wishful thinking is not a satisfactory response to inequality. Still, there is no clear and practical consensus as to how we might actualize Gospel values. Strengthening our commitment to identify and reject racism must be our foundation. In Open Wide Our Hearts the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reminds us, “… having experiences living near those with different experiences and backgrounds can strengthen communities and the Body of Christ.”
We need to continue being stubbornly creative – among and within ourselves – if we are to pursue the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion. The USCCB reminds us: “As Christians, we are constantly called to examine our own hearts and consciences for how we might contribute to or break down racial divisions, intolerance, and discrimination. The failure to act to end systemic racism hurts those who are victimized and denies all of us the opportunity to benefit from the gifts of diversity.”
Peter Hesed is the Director of Music Emeritus for St. Margaret of Scotland.
Over the course of nine weeks, the SMOS Living Justice Ministry – Racial Equity Team will present reflections from various parishioners on the Parish Statement on Racism. To read more about the Statement, please go to the front page of the Parish website at stmargaretstl.org.