Herald Journal Columns
Nov. 17, 2003 Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

A pastor's address on racism present in the United States

By Father Timothy Cloutier, St. Mary's Catholic Church, Waverly

As you may be aware, Catholic Archbishop Harry Flynn has issued a pastoral letter on the topic of racism, entitled "In God's Image."

It has recently been highlighted on local television news broadcasts. With it, he invites us in the introduction into a discussion on this sensitive and relevant moral issue, in order to "join together in working to combat racism in all its forms."

The Catholic church's teaching on racism is based on Genesis 1:26, that every human being is created in God's image and likeness. We are called to respond as a church, and, as individual Christians, in our own public and social life to the sin and injustice of racism.

Racism is a reality here in Minnesota as it is everywhere else. It is wrong and a sin no matter what form it takes, or from wherever it comes, and it must be said, in whatever direction it goes.

To think that racism is a "white issue" only is myopic, to say the least.

Wherever there is intolerance and disrespect for another person or culture, simply because that race or culture is not our own, there is racism.

In Zimbabwe, Africa, white farmers are persecuted and killed simply because they are white. In Japan there are ultra-nationalists who are openly hostile to everything Western, still seeing it as a threat to their traditional ways.

The recent flap over a proposed social studies curriculum in Minnesota was the occasion for racist bigotry by some self-appointed "spokesmen" of Native Americans as they attempted to defile the legacy of Christopher Columbus, accusing him of nothing less than genocide because "he and his men" unwittingly brought to these shores diseases for which the native population had no natural resistance, as if that were his intention.

There are not-too-subtle movements across this country to lessen respect for, and even to replace the prevalent culture and the ethical values of our forebears, among which is respect for the Rule of Law, with those of the culture of immigrants, many of whom enter this country illegally.

The USA has always welcomed those who come to us with the desire to become a part of the building of this great nation, and who prove that, by assimilating the prevalent culture, language, and in general the values of this nation.

All the while they enrich their new country with their honest work and enterprise, with their festivals and their cuisine, and become truly a prized ingredient in the "American Melting Pot."

Our everyday lives would be much different without them. Popcorn is a gift from Native Americans. Don't we love Italian pizza and pasta? Aren't there numerous and well-known celebrations of the German "Oktoberfest?"

The success of Mexican-inspired foods of so many varieties doesn't need to be argued. Where would we be in a bind without Chinese take-out or buffets?

The celebration of St. Patrick's Day has almost become a part of what it means to be American in some places. We are a country that has traditionally absorbed and embraced the richness of other cultures, when the immigrants from those cultures have assimilated and embraced ours.

Racism has a cause ­ it doesn't just happen. It is usually a reaction to a real or a perceived injustice or treat toward a population and cultural heritage.

If we are to root out racism, it must begin in our own hearts, and not be given into out of an irrational reaction toward a radical few.

Let it be known as well, however, that it is not racist to hold on to one's own culture and ethnical values in the face of those whose patent objective is to change them. That is rather akin to the virtue of patriotism.

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