February is Black History Month. In a nation that has recently seen events that reveal the insidious core of prejudice still within us, it is a time for some serious reflection. This is a time set aside to remember and to celebrate the contributions of Black Americans to all aspects of our national life, and to acknowledge their central role in American history. Black History Month reminds us not just of how far we have traveled but how far there is still to go. Daily we are upset as we see hate expressed not only against Black Americans but also against Asians, Jews, Muslims and others. For those who claim to be Christians and followers of the inclusive, nonviolent Jesus, this behavior is a blatant contradiction. This month is an opportunity to reflect on the corrosive effects of racism and to challenge our own negative stereotypes. For each of us, it is a call to the internal and external change that is needed if our lives are to be authentic.
“God of peace enable our society to honor and appreciate the dignity of all people. This February, bless all who, in the spirit of Black History Month, seek to bring Your world together, rather than to tear it apart. Thank you for all the lives they have touched. Heal those who harbor hatred against any of their brothers and sisters because of race. Teach us to live together in peace and mutual respect now and always. Amen.”
Let us try to influence the attitudes of others by expressly rejecting racial stereotypes, racial slurs and racial jokes and influencing the members of our families, especially the children, to be sensitive to the authentic human values and cultural contributions of each racial group in our country.
Personally, let us educate ourselves to specific contributions of African Americans to our society. Let us be grounded in the understanding that we are all one.
Politically, let us see through the veiled or overt language that appeals to the basest ideologies of people and reject it and those who propagate it. Let us oppose the efforts of those who would restrict voting rights in particular areas.
Read the entire text of Brothers and Sisters to Us available on Google.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
1 John 4:20
We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.
Each of us as Catholics must acknowledge a share in the mistakes and sins of the past. Many of us have been prisoners of fear and prejudice. We have preached the Gospel while closing our eyes to the racism it condemns. We have allowed conformity to social pressures to replace compliance with social justice. But past mistakes must not hinder the Church’s response to the challenges of the present.
USCCB, Brothers and Sisters to Us
Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.
And yet, the dawn is ours
before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed
a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished.
Amanda Gorman, First National Youth Poet Laureate/ Youngest Poet to read at an Inauguration
Have a vision. Be demanding.
Colin Powell, first African American Secretary of State
Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.
Dr. Mae Jemison, first African American female astronaut
In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute.
Thurgood Marshall, first African American on the U.S. Supreme Court
Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.
Booker T. Washington, author and politician
Won’t it be wonderful when black history and native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book. Just U.S. History.
Maya Angelou, poet
I had chosen to use my work as a reflection of my values.
Sidney Poitier, actor
You are no better than anybody else, and no one is better than you.
Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician
You never cede control of your own ability to be successful to something called racism.
Condoleezza Rice, First Black Woman Secretary of State
There is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the United States of America.
Barack Obama, President of the United States
Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.
Oprah Winfrey, TV producer, actress, author, and philanthropist.
If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.
Shirley Chisholm, politician, educator
Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught.
Racial superiority is a mere pigment of the imagination.