Racism is Always Evil
There are some things that are always true, no matter when, where, or whom is involved. One of these truths is that racism is always wrong. It is a form of discrimination which is always unjust and, therefore, morally wrong and incompatible with Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches emphatically that, “The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: ‘Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design’ (CCC 1935).”
There is no equity between peoples if racism flourishes. Where there is deep entrenched racism and injustice, the entire human family is affected negatively. Pope Benedict XVI puts this in perspective when he wrote, “The development of peoples depends, above all, on a recognition that the human race is a single family working together in true communion, not simply a group of subjects who happen to live side by side (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Vertitate, par. 53).” As a single human family, what happens to one of us affects all of us.
Unique and Unrepeatable
Every single human person, regardless of their race, sex, color, social conditions, language, or religion is unique and unrepeatable, made in God’s image and likeness. Jesus Christ did not become man into a single race of people, He shared in our very humanity. “The unity of the human race, a fraternal communion transcending every barrier, is called into being by the word of God-who-is-Love (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Vertitate, par. 34).” Without the unflinching and overwhelming love of God, we are lost adrift at sea. Without the perspective of God, we remain huddled in our own socio-economic bubble or silo, unable to empathize with other members of our human family.
There are certainly barriers in our world today to this brotherly unity, but we must remember that this unity is not human made. The unity of the human family is called into existence by the Word of God and that Word is never in vain, nor does it every return to Him void (cf. Is 55:11). How, then, does that unity come about? It comes through arduous, uphill, and uncompromising work
No Body Now But Yours
There will not be lasting peace among peoples this side of Heaven, but this does not stop the battle. Jesus Christ did not come to bring peace to nations. Jesus Christ came to bring peace to unique, unrepeatable individual person (cf. Jn. 14:27). Often times, He does this by using instruments: us. As the great mystic and Doctor of the Church, St. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
For our own salvation and the salvation of the world, the interpersonal relationships that we establish by God’s grace, first with Him and then with others matter greatly. Our thoughts, words, and deeds have eternal consequences not only for ourselves but for those around us. We have a moral obligation to share our spiritual goods. First and foremost, we must share the Gospel. We must also understand that “the equal dignity of human persons requires the effort to reduce excessive social and economic inequalities. It gives urgency to the elimination of sinful inequalities (CCC 1947).”
Complicit, Repentance, Conversion
St. John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation Reconciliation and Penance outlines four ways that we can be complicit in systemic racism. First, by directly supporting or exploiting the evil of racism. Second, by being accessory to the sin by indifference or a complicity. Third, by a fatalistic acceptance which sees racism as inevitable and unavoidable. And fourth, by a consecration, of sorts, of the status quo.
When we fall into one or more of these four categories, we are part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. The way to combat racism will look radically different for each individual, based on the principle of subsidiarity. There will inevitably be different challenges, varying place to place. The answer, as with any sin, is an examination of conscience, repentance (if discerned as needed), and conversion (always an ongoing process).