2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  This act was a triumph for the civil rights movement and the effort to end discrimination against black people in the United States.  However,

segregation was the norm throughout our country then, and many would argue, still is prevalent in many areas of American society. 


Theologians today use the term “elegant racism” which is more subtle, less visible (at times), but enduring and sometimes vicious.  Examples of this type of racism are present in various housing discriminations, in the multiple cases of voter fraud, in the lack of access of black Americans to good public transportation, good schools, and public services. The alarming increase in the black prison population over the last several years because of the high rate of crime in poor communities is still another example of its existence.


Racism is alive and well unfortunately.  Some have referred to racism as America’s “original sin.”  The United States Catholic Bishops have spoken out against racism calling it not only a sin and an enduring evil but have said that it violates the human dignity of all those who are children of the same God.  Do we, as a Catholic community of believers, really welcome our black sisters and brothers into our parishes and into our homes?


How many of us have ever heard of Sr. Theo Bowman, Daniel Rudd, Henriette DeLille, Vincent Waters, John LaFarge, Clarence Rivers or Josephine Bakhita?  As Sr. Theo Bowman once said:  “If I walk with you into your community I don’t walk as a stranger.  I walk as your sister.”


Today the fastest growing racial grouping in the United States is now “mixed race” which is changing many perspectives on race.  Racism is still alive in our country.  Is it not possible that some of the deadlocks in our national government between various branches of government can be attributed to subtle forms of racism?


As our national government continues to struggle with the inability to work together to hammer out fair and compassionate immigration laws we need to seriously examine our consciences as a Christian community and as citizens of this country to say are we really seeing the stranger as our sister or brother in Christ?  In many ways immigration is emerging as a new civil rights issue.  The United States is becoming more and more a multicultural country and the call to all of us is to see God in the face of the other.


Ann Kasparek