A Message of Solidarity from CRNYHS
June 1, 2020
Dear Cristo Rey New York Community:
We've prepared today's message in both video and text formats. Please click on the link below to watch the video or scroll down to read the text.
We write today in both sorrow and anger at the suffering that we are witnessing again due to racial injustice. The deeply embedded sin of racism continues to affect our country. The image above was posted on Facebook by Fr. James Martin, S.J. and is credited to Bro. Mickey McGrath (http://www.bromickeymcgrath.com/). This powerful image of Christ with the last words of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minnesota evokes an emotional response on many levels. In light of the traumatic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the false allegations levied at Christian Cooper in Central Park, protests against racial injustice have sprung up all around the country. The arc of the moral universe is not bending toward justice fast enough. How do we make sense of this?
On Sunday, May 31, Fr. James Martin, S.J. posted, “Today we celebrate Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit enabled the disciples to speak in many languages. Jesus's disciples were able to speak, hear and understand. But how can you understand the Spirit if you don't speak justice, or don't hear these words: ‘I can't breathe.’”
In his homily on Pentecost, Fr. John Mulreany, S.J. preached about George Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe.” By contrast, Fr. Mulreany referred to the Book of Genesis when, “the Lord God formed the man out of the dust and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” And in John’s Gospel, on Pentecost Jesus appeared to the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he did this, he breathed on them and bestowed on them the gift of the Holy Spirit. God gives life through breath, while evil takes away breath, and life.
Students of Cristo Rey New York, our fierce Lions, what is our message for you?
You are loved, for who you are, as you are. All people, with the abundant diversity of humanity, are created in the image and likeness of God. With your feelings of anger, disgust, dismay, exhaustion, fear - whatever you may be feeling - you are loved.
Your safety is a preeminent concern. George Floyd died in the custody of police in Minnesota, Ahmaud Arbery died at the hands of white residents of the Georgia neighborhood where he was jogging. In some cases, protests over these violent deaths have turned violent themselves and people have been injured and killed. Not to mention, being in a large crowd during a pandemic increases the chances of catching COVID-19. Please stay safe, so the loss of innocent lives is not compounded by the loss of more innocent lives.
Most people treat others with dignity and respect. While it is sometimes hard to see when the extreme behaviors of the few get a lot of attention, most people are good-hearted. Among thousands of protesters, most assemble peacefully while only a few act violently or destructively. We support the insistent, yet peaceful, call for justice. Among thousands of police officers, most do hard jobs very well while only a few abuse their power and threaten the public. Cristo Rey New York has an excellent relationship with the officers of the 23rd Precinct and they have supported us time and time again.
We denounce violence and destruction. We are called to love one another, not hate. Violence and destruction diminish us all. Violence against Black Americans, often Black men like George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, is an intolerable consequence of immoral individual actions and systemic racial injustice against which we must continue to fight. Throwing bottles, breaking glass, looting stores, and lighting fires work against the achievement of true justice. Some people who wish to promote mayhem not justice take advantage of legitimate protests as cover for their destructive agenda. We need to promote justice while remaining true to our values. Those of us who cannot fully know the realities that our sisters and brothers of color face cannot settle for being sympathetic bystanders, at best, when we need to be allies in the fight against racism.
What to do?
In 1979 the U.S. Catholic Bishops called racism a “radical evil." As an educational community we are committed to radical freedom. We must find the courage to stand up to the radical evil that continues to afflict our communities of color and draw upon our resources to renew our efforts to support each other, to stand up for each other, and to uphold human dignity everywhere.
For guidance, we look to Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. Rep. Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls "The Beloved Community” in America. His dedication to the highest ethical standards and moral principles has won him the admiration of many of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the United States Congress. He has led the fight for civil rights since the early 1960s. You can learn more about him at: https://johnlewis.house.gov/john-lewis.
On Saturday, May 30, Rep. Lewis said, "I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive."
If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed by the issues at hand, consider disconnecting from the news and social media for a bit. Take a walk, say a prayer, talk to a friend, parent, or counselor. This is a long struggle and we will not solve it in one day. You need to sustain yourself in order to fight for others.
We continue to pray for your health and safety. Have courage and confidence, Lions. We can do this!
Mr. Dougherty and Dr. Clemente