William J. McCarthy Jr.
It’s been five years since Freddie Gray’s death, and it might not have happened in Baltimore this week, but across the country, it’s still happening.
It’s been 52 years since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, and across the country, it’s still happening.
We are watching as black and brown men and women are suffering and dying because privilege and power have more value than they do.
Jogging, birdwatching, sleeping at home in the middle of the night, lying on the ground face-down in handcuffs and not moving under a grown man’s persistent weight. It’s still happening.
Even in the midst of a global pandemic that should equalize us in our common humanity, vulnerability, community and compassion, it goes on.
It’s hard to say something meaningful when words fail. Acknowledging this failure seems like adding a tiny, weak voice in a screaming swell of anguish. But it is our voice, and the Catholic Charities value to work for justice compels us to use it.
We speak because we see our black and brown neighbors who have been forbidden to wear a mask in a store because it signals danger, but are now required to wear a mask in the same store, lest they be a danger. We speak because we see our black and brown neighbors who are infected at alarmingly higher rates than white neighbors, because poverty and systemic failures to treat them with equity put them at inherently higher risk, and then can’t or won’t adjust quickly enough to protect them.
Whether it be from a virus that destroys lungs or a knee in the neck on the ground, we are watching our neighbors beg for their lives to matter until they have no more breath left to breathe the words.
With an unwavering gaze, we must confront and compel ourselves first, and then our neighbors – including our police – to recognize and honor the dignity of every individual we encounter – immediately, explicitly, and with the same degree of inherent worth.
Words may be weak, but silence is not justice, and we have the breath to add our voice. We commit not just to speak, but to act in and with and for love, to cherish the Divine within every person. We reaffirm to our colleagues and our community that, while anguish seems unrelenting, we will not be silent.