Principal's Blog - 11 June 2020

11 Jun 2020

“Racism is not merely one sin among many, it is a radical evil dividing the human family”
Letter from the United States Catholic Bishops, 1979.

Dear Members of the Marcellin Family,

The last two weeks in the United States has been disturbing to witness. Coming on top of the devastating death toll from the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic and social consequences that have followed, the footage of the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests across the country have been confronting. For many in the United States, and indeed more broadly, this issue is being labelled as a response to structural racism. According to the Aspen Institute, an international non-profit thinktank based in Washington DC, structural racism is “a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with ‘whiteness’ and disadvantages associated with ‘color’ to endure and adapt over time.”

The death of George Floyd, and in particular the circumstances in which it happened, has mobilised many people and initiated much discussion and conversation in the mainstream media and on social media. While it has the potential to divide people, there is also a striking opportunity to bring the issue of racism into the public forum for education, discussion and reflection within safe environments. Schools are one such place where we have a unique opportunity to assist young people in the way they view the world. Within our Catholic and Marist context here, we have an unambiguous and hope-filled message to give to our young men in times like these. It comes from scripture and centuries of teaching that brings clarity to human dignity for all people, regardless of cultural or ethnic background. Scripture tells us specifically that we are all created in God’s image. The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells this out also:

The equality of men and women rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it: “Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, colour, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.” Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, No. 29.

As part of his response to the question “who is my neighbour?”, Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). In it, he addresses entrenched divisions between Jew and Samaritan and sets the stage for the unity of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). This unity admits “no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex…” Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, No. 32

Our Marist tradition also speaks unequivocally about the need to be “brothers and sisters” to all.

Our world and its peoples always need hope. We can be both beautifully creative and mindlessly destructive. We may fear the “other.” Living as sisters and brothers offers a hopeful and caring means by which our differences enrich our communion. Marist fraternity becomes a sign of hope for the world with a growing need for tolerance and peace. Water From the Rock #120

Structural racism is not confined to the United States of course. Here in Australia we have our own challenges in this area. Bringing Them Home, the Stolen Generation Report (1997), The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1987) and the ongoing issues associated with these reports are still matters to be fully addressed in our own context. Let’s hope and pray that we can do so in a peaceful, respectful and constructive way into the future. As Marists we approach such tasks as Mary would have:

The Marian Church has the heart of a mother: no one is abandoned. Water From the Rock #114

John Hickey