The following continues our series of reflections on our Parish Statement on Racism:
“We believe that the St. Louis Archdiocese, using the specific recommendations of the study Forward Through Ferguson, can take a significant role, nationally, in challenging racism and that St. Margaret of Scotland can be a committed ally in the work to be done here at home. Our diocese has been a national leader before, bringing integration of schools years before the courts (St Louis Racial Justice Decrees of 1947), and we strive to lead again. As the largest religious group in the metropolitan area, Catholics could lead by example as we carefully examine our institutions and culture for policies and structures which contain racial bias and create new and equitable ones.” (from St. Margaret of Scotland Parish Statement on Racism)
Reflecting on paragraph seven of our Parish Statement on Racism leaves me feeling tense(s) in at least two ways. First, this single paragraph invites us to recall three tenses: our past, present, and future. In the past, Cardinal Joseph Ritter began to correct some of the racist policies in the Archdiocese of St. Louis that perpetuated injustices like segregated schools. These policy changes are good and necessary, but not sufficient.
In our present lifetimes, we’ve seen the unjust death of Michael Brownin nearby Ferguson. A few generations after the tide began to turn under Ritter’s leadership, we continue to live with evil outcomes resulting from centuries of racism.
Racism is an undeniable feature of our past and present. We also have the opportunity to lessen its impact on our future. There will always be an opportunity for us to ensure anti-racist policies are implemented and achieve their intended outcome.
Second, as I contemplate the call to action of our parish letter on racism, I feel myself getting anxious and nervous. My body tenses up a bit. I think this psychosomatic response is healthy. It can serve as the catalyst to both our individual and community responses. When I was growing up, my dad regularly reminded me that when we’re comfortable, we’re not learning. How can I learn from our past and present experiences of racism? How can I transform this tension into action? What will I do to contribute to a better future and help end racism?
This Michael Miller is a parishioner at St. Margaret of Scotland, resident of Shaw neighborhood, and a mission leader for SSM Health.
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.