Catholic School Matters
January 11, 2021
Reading List on Racism
Christmas break provided me with some much-needed time for reflection and my podcast conversation with Dr. Jeannine Hill Fletcher, author of The Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism, & Religious Diversity in America (2017), was one conversation that spurred on further reflection. If we're going to serve a diverse Church, we need to understand the systems which undergird our society.
The events of January 6th brought that reflection to bear. It’s almost too obvious to say—but it must be said all the same—that the outcome of the desecration of the Capitol would have been much, much different if the mob had been black. White supremacy was on full display as these white rioters acted with confidence that they would not be stopped, shot, or prosecuted. All those who called BLM a terrorist or “anti-life” organization should be also decrying the pro-Trump rioters as terrorists and anti-life.
When George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis last summer, I sought to participate in the national conversation and read these influential books which shaped my thinking:
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2020) by Michelle Alexander. This was, by far, the best book to look at how systematic racism functions in our society. After all, many people say, “I’m not racist or prejudiced…I treat everyone equally.” Alexander’s book works to highlight the impact of our systems.
- Between the World and Me (2015) Ta-Nehisi Coates. One man’s story of how racism impacted his life. Coates’ attention use of the term “black bodies” as in “people wanted to control our black bodies” was particularly impactful.
- Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody: The Making of a Black Theologian (2018 ) by James H. Cone. Cone explains how he helped develop Black Theology as a Catholic theologian at a Catholic college. Often dismissed as a radical, it’s important to recognize that black Catholics have been calling for change since the sixties.
- America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States (2019) by Erika Lee. It’s important to recognize how xenophobia worked against Asian-Americans and Hispanics. It’s important to recognize that many whites fight for a “normal” America which usually involves fighting against immigrants and people of color.
- Racial Justice & the Catholic Church (2010) by Bryan N. Massingale. This sweeping work touches on many issues facing the Church. If anyone believes racism isn’t an issue for the Catholic Church, start here.
- The Cross and the Lynching Tree (2011) by James H. Cone. A powerful reminder that Jesus was a victim of capital punishment and an outsider in his society. Cone connects the lynching tree to the crucifixion and argues that this identity shapes the mindset and theology of African-Americans.
- Caste: The Origins of our Discontents (2020) by Isabel Wilkerson. Powerful story of how our conception of race was shaped. Wilkerson connects the Nazi approach to genocide to their study of Jim Crow laws.
My study of these books came together when I read Fletcher’s work. The central idea is that our theology, our politics, our systems all support a norm of American life and anything outside of that norm (whether it be black, non-Christian, non-American, etc) should be disadvantaged. These norms have given whites dominion and control over the land and the people. Her words:
By manufacturing the ideology of White Christian supremacy, theologians and thinkers provided the logic for legislation that would dispossess Native peoples, make enslavement seem reasonable, maintain the disenfranchisement of Black citizens, extract the labor of Asian and Latino workers, all the while directing material resources to elevate the subject position of White citizens through land ownership and homeownership, education, health, and security. (82)
In the podcast, Fletcher references the Pew 2011 report on income disparity. I reference an interview with Rayshard Brooks, who was killed in an Atlanta fast-food parking lot during a dispute with police. Here’s a great America article on Fletcher’s book.
My hope is that last summer’s moment of increased racial awareness doesn’t pass as just a moment. I hope we can continue to learn and build fraternity to fight against systems of white supremacy.
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Dr. Tim Uhl
Teaching & Learning
Catholic School Matters podcast
Check out the past episodes from this season:
- 12 Christmas podcasts: Michael Deegan of the Archdiocese of NY, Nicole Garnett of Notre Dame law school on religious charters, Maka Black Elk on truth & healing, Dr. Jeannine Hill Fletcher on The Sin of White Supremacy, Dr Leslie Lipovski from the Diocese of Arlington & St. Isidore Virtual Catholic School, Mary Flock of the Diocese of Orange & St. Polycarp Virtual Catholic School, Bruce Davis of Catholic Virtual, Jeff Hausman of AVLI, Kyle Pietrantonio of DIA Schools, Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski of VLCFF, Frankie Jones of ACE, and Mike Derrick of San Diego Cristo Rey HS.
- Thought Leaders: Dave Stuart, Jr., George Couros, Dr. Christian Dallavis from Partnership Schools; Dr. Debbie Sullivan & FADICA reports;
- Pandemic-focused podcasts: Fr. Eric Ramirez, SJ from Regis Jesuit HS; John Galvan from the Diocese of San Diego; Elizabeth Goettl, CEO, Cristo Rey Network; Dr. Tim McNiff of Engineering Tomorrow.; Dr. Brandi Odom Lucas of Verbum Dei (Cristo Rey) HS; Jenny Oliver, the principal of St. Joe's in Auburn, CA; Br. John Montgomery, FSC, the principal of Cathedral High in Los Angeles; Leanne Geise, president of Dominican High in Wisconsin; August 19, 2020 Bea Kaleva (MT attorney) on COVID-related legal issues;
- August 12, 2020 Dr. Daryl Hagan of the Diocese of Evansville on reopening
What I'm Reading
The Last 5 Books:
- Breathing Under Water (2011) by Richard Rohr
- Everything Belongs (2003) by Richard Rohr
- Dune (1965) by Frank Herbert
- The United States of Paranoia (2014) by Jesse Walker
- America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States (2019) by Erika Lee
Click this link for a full list of my professional reading
Past Issues of Catholic School Matters
Jan 4, 2021 12 Days of Christmas Podcasts
Nov 9, 2020 "God in Disguise"
Nov 2, 2020 "Sharks and Survival"
Oct 26, 2020 "Mt. Rushmore Controversy"
Oct 19, 2020 "The Cleveland Partnership"
Oct 5, 2020 "Governance Reform"
Sep 28, 2020 "Autonomy & Radar"
Sep 21, 2020 "Learning While Doing"
Sep 14, 2020 "Connecting the Disconnected"
Aug 31, 2020 "Racial Injustice"
Aug 24, 2020 "Figuring it Out"
Aug 17, 2020 Serenity Prayer
May 24, 2020 Value Proposition During Uncertain Times
For previous newsletters, click this link
A couple of years ago I set out to write a book which would explore the challenges of Catholic school leadership. My premise that there are no easy answers and that we have to learn from our (and other's) mistakes in order to form a mindset appropriate for orchestrating conflict proved presient as we all faced completely new and unexpected challenges in 2020. The book,Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic Leadership is now available on Amazon or on the Barnes & Noble site in print or e-book formats. The book explores issues in Catholic school leadership and the tensions between building community and following Church policies and introduces deliberate practice as a method for leadership formation.