We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (Declaration of Independence, 1776)
Thomas Jefferson began the US Declaration of Independence with these words almost 250 years ago. I suspect the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, the African American community, and all people of color have difficulty finding these lofty words meaningful. People of color have been victims of structural racism from our country’s inception, leaving much of white America to prosper from its many blessings, while many people of color find themselves excluded from these same blessings.
A Faith That Does Justice (AFTDJ) raises its voice, along with many organizations and people of good will, against the systematic racism that continues to cause the loss of life, opportunity and fulfillment of so many people of color in this country and around the world.
Structural racism has been woven into the fabric of our social, political and economic structures. It has caused large disparities in wealth, income, employment, housing, health care, education, and exposure to the criminal justice system, among other factors, between white people and people of color.
AFTDJ calls all who walk with us to consider Catholic Social Teaching’s (CST) insistence on the rights, dignity, equality, and sanctity of all God’s people. Moreover, CST calls us to unmask racism, personal and structural, to denounce the injustice that arises from it, and to act against it.
Silence, indifference, and a fatalistic acceptance of the loss of life of George Floyd and so many other people of color at the hands of law enforcement officials would leave us complicit with the sinfulness that leads to these actions. Enough is enough! We must act by demanding change that affords protection to all people, regardless of their color and racial heritage, so that all God’s people may live with the human dignity and rights that are God-given, and not meant to be offered or withheld at the discretion of any state or organized structure of society.
Let us listen to those who are suffering so we might better understand their pain. Let us walk in solidarity with the oppressed until they are able to live without fear. And let us take peaceful action by raising our voices to elected officials, demanding justice and legislation that will ensure the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, promised so long ago by our forefathers that still remains the hope of so many people of this country.