President’s Corner: Racism is a critical concern
In the midst of all of the sadness emerging daily from the effects of COVID-19, the horrifying images and reality of the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery flash on our screens, along with the protests across the nation. Our isolated lives feel all the more isolating as we witness these incidents from our individual homes physically disconnected from one another as a University community.
Prior to COVID-19 as a Mercy, Catholic institution, our Salve Regina campus would have been a place to process these terrible events together and seek to respond. I think particularly of our faculty, staff and students of color and how deeply painful these incidents must be to witness.
As a white woman, I know that I can never fully understand your anguish. But I wish to walk alongside you in support and to understand more fully how I can best use my privilege to effect change. I wish that we could sit together in Bazarsky auditorium to reflect and talk with one another, or in the Mercy Chapel to pray or simply be together in the same space as we collectively mourn these senseless losses and consider our mission, discerning how we can work to combat systemic racism today.
Racism is one of the five Critical Concerns we are expressly called to engage as a Mercy, Catholic institution. We see racism at work in the disproportionate number of people of color affected by COVID-19. We see racism at work in the 911 call made by Amy Cooper in Central Park. We see racism at work in the senseless killings or harassment of African Americans out for a run, asleep in their homes, going to church and shopping in the store. I know that many in our community have experienced some of these realities first-hand and feel an overwhelming sense of helplessness.
Virtual support feels inadequate, but as a community with strong Mercy values, we need to find ways even in our isolation to reach out and to lift each other up however we can. To not allow the silence imposed through social distancing to keep us from voicing our feelings, offering care, support and solidarity and taking action together.
Members of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reflected in a statement on Friday “We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy and justice. While it is expected that we will plead for peaceful non-violent protests, and we certainly do, we also stand in passionate support of communities that are understandably outraged. Too many communities around this country feel their voices are not being heard, their complaints about racist treatment are unheeded, and we are not doing enough to point out that this deadly treatment is antithetical to the Gospel of Life.”
At Salve Regina, we will not lose sight of what we stand for, and I am committed to listening deeply, particularly to our faculty, staff and students of color, so we can together more fully advance our Mercy mission and manifest an institutional commitment to anti-racism.
I found some solace in this reflection from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964: “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality …. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”
Let us proceed to listen to one another, to understand more deeply and fully the ways in which racism has impacted our community, so we can together manifest our mercy mission and “work for a world that is more harmonious, just, and merciful.” It is who we are called to be.
This week, Salve Regina will be hosting a virtual prayer service and community dialogue for racial justice and peace. Details will follow soon and all are welcome.
May God bless you and keep you safe,