As Americans struggle with claims of law enforcement bias against people of color and retaliatory crimes against police, the Catholic Committee of Appalachia has called on white Christians to “open themselves to the voices and experience of people of color to be confronted by the reality of their personal and cultural assumptions and prejudices.”
Lamenting continual violence against people of color by law enforcement authorities, the four-page statement stresses the need to address the systemic racism that persists in the United States.
“That such continual violence against people of color would come from those charged by society with ‘keeping the peace’ should be an apocalypse –- that is an unveiling -– for Americans of the reality of white supremacy and social structures that serve, reinforce and transmit racism in this country,” said the statement, timed for release on the feast of the Holy Innocents this Christmas season.
“Indeed, recent events have revealed to many of us that the faces who represent peace and order in some neighborhoods represent terror and repression in others, especially those inhabited primarily by persons of color,” it said.
“We join with countless persons and communities who explicitly or implicitly invoke the God of life by insisting loudly and clearly that black lives matter and that people of faith cannot merely keep silence at the foot of the crosses of our crucified sisters and brothers,” it continued.
The committee invites white Christians to “conversion in one way or another,” especially conversion which is “both personal and societal, a conversion which confronts our own fears, prejudices and privileges as well as the social structures which express, transmit and perpetuate relationships of domination.”
Jeannie Kirkhope, CCA coordinator, told Catholic News Service the statement is the first on any topic in many years from the committee.
Members had been mulling what to say about the controversial actions of police and decided to speak out because they were not hearing about racism and law enforcement violence from church pulpits, she said.
“The prophetic voice of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia has always been there and we wanted to bring that out again,” she explained.
Speaking out on racism is not new for the committee. In 1990, CCA issued a statement on bias, racism and prejudice and called for respect and reconciliation as a wave of hate crimes swept the country.