The Sins of Racism and Family Separation

The Sins of Racism and Family Separation
AP Photo/Stephen Spillman

"Every racist act — every such comment, every joke, every disparaging look as a reaction to the color of skin, ethnicity or place of origin — is a failure to acknowledge another person as a brother or sister, created in the image of God. In these and in many other such acts, the sin of racism persists in our lives, in our country, and in our world."— Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love - A Pastoral Letter against Racism

The November 2018 pastoral letter from the U.S. Catholic Bishops, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love - A Pastoral Letter against Racism, takes stock of the ways in which the sin of racism continues to impact the human family in the United States. While significant progress is made in certain areas of human dignity, the bishops observe "the evil of racism festers in part because, as a nation, there has been no national process of reconciliation and, all too often a neglect of our history. Many of our institutions still harbor, and too many of our laws still sanction, practices that deny justice and equal access to certain groups of people."

Encouraging in the bishops' approach to the sin of racism is the acknowledgment that complex histories of violence, exclusion and invisibility continue to impact the life prospects and dignity of communities today. The letter rehearses the oppression, violence and exclusion against Native Americans, African-Americans and Latinx peoples. These stories are not presented as if they occurred in some distant past marked by the antiquated racist ideologies of long-gone generations in U.S. society. They are the stories of injustices and wrongs that infect U.S. culture, laws and practices: "These examples from the experiences of Native, African and Hispanic Americans demonstrate how, as a nation, we have never sufficiently contended with the impact of overt racism. Nor have we spent the necessary time to examine where the racist attitudes of yesterday have become a permanent part of our perceptions, practices and policies of today or how they have been enshrined in our social, political and economic structures."

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