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A Catholic Perspective on Racism
Question from anon on 11/18/2013:

I have a friend, who is of a minority group, and I am Caucasian. I admire so much my friend's faith because she seems to be on fire with love for God. But at the same time, she will frequently stereotype and openly say pretty derogatory things about "white people." When she says these things, I usually try to play it off as if nothing happened, but if I'm completely honest with myself, the things she says are often pretty hurtful to me, especially because they come from someone whose opinion I really respect and whose faith I really admire. This happened the other day, and this time it bothered me so much that I had to look into what the Church teaches on this. It seems though that the only situation that really gets acknowledged is when a majority group/group in power is displaying racism or racial oppression toward a minority group. But is it somehow okay if a person from a minority group is saying offensive things toward a person who is not considered a minority? Isn't this an equal form of hatred? I'm not trying to make this a political question at all, I'm just genuinely having a very hard time reconciling these comments that my friend makes with her deep Catholic faith. She doesn't seem to see them as incompatible and she seems to have perfect peace with God. I value her friendship, so I wanted to know: What is your opinion on the matter and how I should approach this?

Answer by Richard Geraghty on 12/30/2013:

Dear Anon,

Perhaps my experience an an American Irish Catholic may give you some insight into your situation. It is an historical fact that for centuries the Irish have been oppressed by the English both because of their nationality and the religion. The English are English and Protestant. The Irish of course are Irish and Catholic. When my parents came from the West of Ireland to New York, they felt the same prejudice from the WASP'S (White Anglo Saxons Protestants). Now when my cousin came to the US from England for a visit, which he enjoyed very much, he was stunned by the prejudice of the Irish Catholics in New York against all things English. His mother had been born in Ireland and emigrated to England where she was a school teacher. In many respects she was more English than the English. She considered herself a Catholic and an English woman and had not much use for her Irish heritage. We kids could feel her attitude and resented it. My point is this. A race that has been oppressed by another race develops resentments. A race that has been doing the oppressing does not feel that they have been oppressing anyone. They see themselves as a superior race trying to help out an inferior race. The result is great misunderstanding. What Irish Catholics had to do was to take the prayer of the Our Father seriously, which makes it essential to forgive your enemies. They have to a get over their resentments. Otherwise they will lock themselves up in hatred. What the English have to do is to remember some history and realize that, for all the good intentions they had, they had a superior and arrogant attitude towards the Irish, an attitude that would be deeply resented. They would have to be humble and aware enough to forgive the Irish for their hostile attitude. The point about the Our Father's demand to forgive your enemies is that if you don't, you lock yourself in hatred and thereby offend God, the Father of all his children. This whole process refers to Germans in relation to Jews, Jews in relation to German's, blacks in reference to whites and white in reference to blacks, Arabs in relation to Jews and Jews in relation to Arabs and so on and on. There has been the resentment of the poor against rich and the superior attitude of the rich in regard to the poor, the gap between the educated and the less educated and so on. For an individual to keep his or her balance amend all this conflict and misunderstanding, they have to learn some history and forgive their enemies.

Dr. Geraghty


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