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Join the conversation: systemic racism and wealth, discussing across divides

Sister Emily TeKolste

I remember the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement. A grown man had followed, shot, and killed a teenage Trayvon Martin as he was walking through his own neighborhood. And the jury acquitted the killer on the basis of a self-defense claim. Or Mike Brown, whose body lay in the street for hours after a police officer shot him. The list goes on. Case after case of Black men and women being killed and somehow blamed for their own deaths.

An individual look

In those days, my conversations with loved ones about these killings had a decidedly individual dimension. My family members argued on the merits of each individual scenario — and I responded correspondingly. It seemed the broad social consensus rested on accounting for the deaths on a case-by-case basis.

The conversations have changed a bit over the past eight years. Though we are tragically still sparked into acute outrage by individual shootings of Black people, the movement has also pointed to broader issues such as poverty and a school-to-prison pipeline.

Looking more broadly

Questions of systemic racism and implicit bias have come to the forefront of our national consciousness in new ways. In his increasingly popular book “How to Be an Antiracist,” Dr. Ibram X. Kendi has defined the opposite of “racist” as “anti-racist” instead of “not racist.” This has captured our national imagination for many. More and more people seem to be starting the work of dismantling these self-perpetuating racist systems in our society.

While I’m grateful that the conversations have changed, I and so many others continue to mourn police shootings of Black men — George Floyd and Jacob Blake among the most recent.

Explaining systemic racism

Before I started my ministry just over a year ago at NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby of Nuns on the Bus fame, I’d tried to explain systemic racism to my loved ones. When I started at NETWORK and had the opportunity to participate in the Racial Wealth and Income Gap workshop, my initial reaction was “This is what I’ve been searching for for years to explain systemic racism.”

Our present reality

Join us for our virtual workshop Sept. 26, 2020.

George Floyd’s murder came in the midst of a global pandemic that has disproportionately harmed Black and Brown communities both in health and economically. This reality brings the conversation of systemic racism back to the front of our national consciousness. In this moment, I’m pleased to be able to combine NETWORK’s Racial Wealth and Income Gap workshop with another popular NETWORK workshop — Transformative Conversations to Bridge Divides — to help participants navigate having important and challenging conversations with their loved ones.

Join the conversation

This combined workshop begins to answer the questions: How did we get here? and Where do we go from here? I hope you’ll join us for this conversation.

Join us from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 26 for the combined virtual workshop. Learn the history of laws that promote racial income inequality in this country and get tips for how to speak constructively to people of differing opinions.

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Sister Emily TeKolste

Sister Emily TeKolste is in formation with the Sisters of Providence. She is a native of Indianapolis and has a degree in sociology from Xavier University in Cincinnati. Emily is passionate about justice with special interest in environmentalism and sustainability. You can follow her blog at solongstatusquoblog.wordpress.com. She currently ministers with the NETWORK lobby for Catholic social justice.

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1 Comment

  1. Dolores “Dodie” Hoss Pflumm. PA on September 10, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    Since we rarely have homilies on the horrendous justice issues in this country 12 of us started a community of small faith to read about and discuss these issues. We have written to our Bishop asking him to have the priest use a teaching moment to make everyone more aware of Catholics Social justice and how we can bring about change. We are also making others more aware. It is disappointing that so many Catholics don’t know about Social and only focus on the abortion issue. We will keep spreading the justice regardless of what our Bishop chooses to do. For years we have supported NETWORK and are so happy you are ministering with Sr, Simone.. Peace and prayers, Basil&Dodie

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