Karen House Catholic Worker
Racism: Seething Violence
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Why This Issue:
Concern with racism is rooted deep in our Worker history. The masthead of the New York Catholic Worker has always had one black and one white figure joined around the Cross of Christ. Dorothy often traveled in order to be with people who were resisting racism, at times sharing in their danger. Racism has not left us, despite the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. In St. Louis, we are only now beginning the struggle to desegregate our public schools, although the Brown
decision ordered desegregation “with all deliberate speed” in 1954. As a nation, we are witnessing the dismantling of civil rights and social legislation that will make the "benign neglect” of the Nixon years look like fulsome generosity. As our government abandons human rights as a concern of foreign policy, it is thousands of people of color who bear the consequences, both under military dictatorships abroad and in the transfer of funds from human services to the military budget at home.
And so, it is good and fitting to reflect once again on racism. It is not easy to do, as Kwasi Thornell points out in his article. It makes us depressed and angry because we feel so defeated by it. Yet, reflection on racism is such a good teacher. The connections are made so clearly. Racism is violence, whether in the form of gas ovens, lynchings or the disproportionate number of people of color killed in wars, or in unemployment that leads to crime, housing that looks like Dresden after World War II, or children who are bitten by rats.
Lest these wounds seem too overwhelming, we need only to remember that their causes lie in our own hearts; and therefore, the solutions are also within our grasp.
“Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me
-it is the Lord Yahweh who speaks-
to break unjust fetters
and undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and break every yoke,
to share your bread with the hungry,
and shelter the homeless poor,
to clothe the one you see to be naked
and not turn from your own kin?
Then will your light shine like the dawn
and your wound be quickly healed over."
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