24th Sunday in OT (A)
September 8, 2020
BLM and our sacred images
September 8, 2020

The challenge of RACE

By Msgr Christian D Pereira

For many years people of our great nation were guided by an unwritten convention, namely, we should not speak about or discuss race. It was thought to be something we just left alone and allow to evolve as a reality that would haunt us.

Like COVID-19, we cannot see it… we really do not see it as a problem. The truth is, we have come to realise that it is a real problem that makes life difficult for all our citizens.

As a people, we seem not to know how to have a conversation about race. We do not know what people really think or feel and maybe we ourselves are not sure how we really feel about it.

On reflection, I recall being touched by a story about Malcom X who in his young and fiery days was confronted by a young co-ed white woman who felt that she wanted to work with Malcolm to further his cause.

This blonde co-ed asked Malcolm what a white person like herself could do to help further the cause? He responded with a cold (and, at that time, heartfelt), “Nothing” and walked away from her. This woman was so inspired by a speech that Malcolm had given at a college in New England, she took the highly unusual and proactive step to fly to New York and track Malcolm down in his beloved Harlem.

Years later when he matured and made his hajj (Islamic pilgrimage) to Mecca, he found many people of different colours, races and nationalities believing in the same thing that he believed. That was his conversion moment.

He returned to the United States and continued his commitment to improve race relations by including all persons who were equally committed regardless of colour or race. He no longer vilified white people as he once did.

According to Malcolm: “I regret that I told her she could do ‘nothing’. I wish now that I knew her name, or where I could telephone her, and tell her what I tell white people now when they present themselves as being sincere, and ask me, one way or another, the same thing that she asked.

Well, I have lived to regret that incident…. I tell sincere white people, ‘Work in conjunction with us… Let sincere individuals of all RACES find all other people they can who feel as they do—work trying to convert people who are thinking and acting so racist.”

Malcolm X came to the realisation that perhaps there was much that the “little blond co-ed” could have done and, perhaps, she could have played an important role as a collaborator.

So, sincere people of all races, there is much you can do. But you can start with ensuring those who have skewed views of fairness and harbour racist views come to an understanding of the term ‘race’.

I consider it to be an acronym:

R for Respect for ourselves not because of our colour or ethnicity but deeper than that, a self-respect that recognises our own personal humanity and our connection with all of God’s creation, other humans and the wider creation  as described in Genesis all are created by God.

A for an Appreciation of who others are. Like me, they are part of God’s creation, the humans who are all created in the image and likeness of the God who created me in the same image and likeness. An appreciation that allows us to be open and trusting of each other. Without appreciation we cannot be open or trust each other.

C for the Communion we are called to create and develop among all God’s people. Communion frees and sustains us. A lack of communion imprisons us thereby robbing us of our freedom to be open and trusting and deprives us of sustenance.

E for the Evolving reality that brings us closer to each other, appreciative of each other and respectful of ourselves.

We can no longer be afraid of race.  We are all required to embrace our own racial reality (even the ‘dougla’ and ‘cocoa panyol’) and appreciate each other so that we help each other become the community we are called to be as children of Mother Trinidad and Tobago, living the joy of evolving to be the people we are created to be.

Msgr Christian Pereira is the parish  priest of  St  Benedict’s, La Romaine.