By Patrick Saint-Jean, SJ
June 22, 2020 — Racism is a sin that grows year-round in the hearts of many. These seeds, germinating for more than 400 years in hatred and oppression, devastate the Black community each time there is a new bloom. America’s epidemic of racism is slowly killing the people of God. Fifty states and 18 countries have taken part in protests to raise awareness of this epidemic.
The pain and anger of the last few weeks leads us to ask: How can we work toward antiracism in our own hearts, churches and country?
Now more than ever, I believe Ignatian spirituality is an important means to help each person who desires to live with justice, dignity and equality seek God in the midst of everything. Through this examen, we will start the work of antiracism by examining how systemic racism influences our lives and how we practice the sin of racism.
In this meditation, we will analyze how our actions and privilege contribute to the destruction of the dignity and humanity of the Black community in the U.S.
We ask God to reveal himself and to remove the veils from our eyes that hinder us from fully seeing Black people. Let us open our ears to hear their cries. Let us reflect and bring the fruit of our reflections to God.
Let us begin with an awareness of God’s presence.
Become aware of God’s presence, sense his love and compassion. His love for creation is universal, encompassing the oppressed and marginalized. Notice God’s presence, his love for creation in the Black community, especially in this moment as Black Americans cry out for justice.
Ask yourself: When have I failed to notice or respond to the needs of my Black brothers and sisters? Have I turned a blind eye to racial injustice? How? Why? How is my compliance, my inaction and my sense of fear directly or indirectly contributing to maintain this structure?
As we strive toward antiracism, we must not only see God’s presence in Black communities but co-labor with our Black brothers and sisters to enact justice.
Review your participation in systems of racism.
Now, let us review our day through the lens of racism. Review your actions and thoughts with attention to how racism or privilege manifested itself.
Often our actions are guided by our self-interests or personal biases, which can perpetuate harm. But, sometimes, we see injustice and choose to detach from it, saying that, “It’s not me, it’s not my fight.” Inaction is complicity, and it is wrong.
For example, did you turn away from news about Black Lives Matter protests? Did you stay silent when a family member or friend said something ignorant or racist?
As Christians, we must recognize that we have been living with the sin of racism for four centuries in our church, and in fact, we benefit directly from it. In our political system, too, power is consolidated among white people. White Americans are sheltered and protected by a system of racism and inequality that is inseparable from the laws they create. Racism is bound to the DNA of this country.
Ask yourself: How have I been complicit in the suffering of my Black brothers and sisters? How have I benefited from social and systemic racism today? Think about the community you live in, the social networks to which you belong. How have Black people been excluded from those spaces?
Acknowledge the rootedness of the sin of racism in your life, and truly abhor your sinful tendencies, choices, actions, thoughts, decisions, oppression and injustices against the Black community.
Examine your emotions.
As you review how you have participated in racism, pay attention to your feelings. Do you feel upset, angry or uncomfortable?
Confronting white privilege and racism is challenging. Sit with this discomfort. Feel deeply the plight of your Black sisters and brothers and recognize your compliance in this suffering.
Pray for guidance. Remember, we have the opportunity for transformation through the merciful compassion of God.
The environment has a lot to do with how we interact with one another, but a proximity to Blackness is not enough to make you antiracist. Antiracism requires active training and continuous learning about systemic racism.
Ask yourself: How can I leverage my privilege to uproot systemic racism? How can I use my privilege to make space for Black voices and other communities of color? How can I open my heart to make room for the transformation to deeper love which God calls us all to?
Prayer Against the Sin of Racism
Lord, racism is a social sin that has taken root in the garden of our hearts. We need you to convert us Lord, and purify our hearts, so that we can become agents of care, who walk by faith in justice, hope, love, healing and reconciliation for your greater glory.
It’s time to embrace our Black brothers and sisters, instead of standing by while they are continually killed by a tree we need to uproot.
Racism is sinful and harmful to your creation. Guard our hearts against it, and move us forward to enact change.