Presenters discuss need to combat structural racism

by James Dearie

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As Starbucks coffeehouses across the country shut down for an afternoon of anti-prejudice training May 29, Catholic organizations are also taking steps to combat racism.

Auxiliary Bishop Roy Edward Campbell, Jr. of Washington, D.C., Sister of Notre Dame de Namur Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA, and Ralph McCloud, director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, anchored a webinar May 23 titled "Overcoming the Sin of Racism: A Change of heart Mandated by God."

The webinar was hosted by the Catholic Apostolate Center and sponsored by the National Black Catholic Congress.

The three presenters used the one-hour webinar to discuss seven principles of Catholic social teaching: the dignity of humanity, respect for human life, the right and duty of citizens to participate in society, the preferential option for the poor, solidarity, equality, and the common good. 

The webinar is part of a series of such presentations following up the National Black Catholic Congress' 12th congress and the release of its Pastoral Plan of Action. It discussed how the implementation of these principles in everyday life and in parishes can be a part of fighting racism in the country.

The presenters also talked about the need to combat structural racism and the twin problems of internalized racial oppression (the internalization by minorities of negative views about themselves based on their race) and internalized racial superiority (the internalization by white people of their own racial superiority).

Responding to a question about saintly models in the fight for equality, Campbell cited the example of St. Martin de Porres, a 17th century Peruvian saint and son of a freed slave, who worked tirelessly for the poor, orphaned, and ill.  

Chappell encouraged Catholics to seek the intercession of the people of African descent currently under consideration for sainthood by the church, as well as others who dedicated their lives to seeking justice, including late family members and community leaders.

As the presenters struggled to answer as many questions as they could from the live online audience, they mentioned that they were receiving far more that they were forced to pass up.

The webinar was recorded and will soon be made available on the National Black Catholic Congress' webinar page.

[James Dearie is an NCR Bertelsen intern.  Contact him at]         

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