Book Reviews Subscribe Faith-filled Family Links for Learners Ask a Franciscan Editorial Entertainment Watch Saints for Our Lives Contents

Taking the Road to Racial Reconciliation

As our annual “feast of freedom”—July 4—comes around again, we find that many U.S. citizens are not happy with their slice of the freedom pie. One does not have to look far to see stories about racial unrest in our midst. This is certainly true here in Cincinnati. We are painfully aware of the need for racial reconciliation.

But where to begin? One could do worse than start with the famous dictum of the late Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire: The oppressed internalize the image the oppressor has of them. To be set free from oppression, it is obvious that oppressed people need to become aware, first of all, of their oppressive situation and how their self-image was formed.

Minority groups commonly find themselves “buying into” the image that the dominant culture has of them. In his recent pastoral letter on racism, Dwell in My Love, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago addresses this point.

In a segment entitled “Internalized Racism,” the cardinal writes: “Many blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Native Americans are socialized and educated in institutions which devalue the presence of people of color and celebrate only the contributions of whites....Thus, people of color can come to see themselves...primarily through the eyes of that dominant culture....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.”

Given this indoctrination from above, oppressed persons have to adopt changes in attitude and action to correct the “negative” stereotypes they have absorbed. It’s equally important for the dominant culture, in similar ways, to correct its internalized image of superiority.

A Threat to Power Holders

Typically, when an oppressed group becomes more active and confident in its struggle for dignity, equality and rightful status in society, the tendency of the dominant class is to feel threatened by these changes and to resist them.

A political cartoon published in The Cincinnati Enquirer—in the wake of the racial unrest that recently shook the city where I live—cleverly conveyed this truth. The cartoon shows a top white city leader facing a well-known local black religious leader and saying: “Of course we want change—but not if it upsets the status quo.”

Cardinal George’s pastoral on racism is a useful guide for all those who wish to help build a world of racial justice and harmony. We are called to this ideal, not only on the basis of our national tradition, but also on the basis of our biblical tradition. At the creation of the world, God’s plan was that all peoples—indeed all creatures—should live in harmony and communion with each other.

Biblical Vision of Unity

Our biblical tradition holds up before us the dream of racial unity and reconciliation. As the cardinal writes, “The Book of Genesis reveals God as the Creator of a vast universe teeming with a rich diversity of plants and animals, surrounded by the sea and sky.”

We learn that “the culmination and high point of God’s creative energy is the creation of the human race on the sixth day: ‘God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them....’

“Though God intended that all creation live in the harmony and love that unites it as one, human beings, exercising their free will, defied the will of God and replaced the divinely willed unity with conflict, the divinely intended community with fragmentation.

“One form of human division, conflict and fragmentation is racism: personal, social, institutional and structural. Racism mars our identity as a people, as the human race made in the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:27).

But hope has arrived! “Jesus...entered human history,” affirms the cardinal. “Jesus gave us the means to find our way back to the Father....We are to walk in unity as one people....

“Jesus...transforms everything that divides the human community (Galatians 3:28). He calls us back to a communion with one another.”

Shortly after the racial unrest and street violence in Cincinnati, I came across a hopeful and healing symbol rising from the ashes, so to speak. It was a brightly colored painting on a boarded-up store window less than a block from where I live. The store had been vandalized and badly seared by fire. The mural-style painting by young artists from the inner city showed a circle of young children of different races holding hands—with the words: “Unity in the community: We are the people; together we grow.”

The painting mirrored perfectly the biblical “dream of communion” that is God’s desire for the whole human family. May this dream inspire us to join hearts with one another and place our feet firmly on the road to racial reconciliation.—J.W.

Cardinal George’s pastoral on racism, Dwell in My Love, is available in print from the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Racial Justice, phone 312-751-8336. The complete text is online at

Also, Catholic Update has published “Racial Reconciliation: Cardinal Francis E. George’s Pastoral on Racism, Dwell in My Love, in Condensed Form” (C0701). Individual reprints can be ordered by sending $1 and a self-addressed envelope to Racial Reconciliation, St. Anthony Messenger, 1615 Republic St., Cincinnati, OH 45210. Bulk discounts are available by calling 1-800-488-0488 or on this Web site.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Ask a Franciscan  | The Bible: Light to My Path  | Book Reviews  | Entertainment Watch
Editorial  | Editor’s Message  | Faith-filled Family  | Links for Learners
Saints for Our Lives  | Web Catholic  | Back Issues

Return to

Paid Advertisement
Ads contrary to Catholic teachings should be reported to our webmaster. Include ad link.

An Web Site from the Franciscans and
Franciscan Media     ©1996-2016 Copyright