August 18, 2017


Standing strong against the evil of racism in our time

The photographs are upsetting.

The video is even more disturbing.

Add an element of unbridled chaos, and the result is the sad and tragic events that occurred in Virginia over the weekend.

Sadly, the hate-filled protests and violence in Charlottesville resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer and at least 20 injuries. Just as unsettling, the tragedy demonstrated that we still have racist fringe groups in our country who are intent on setting America back instead of moving us forward. Two Virginia State Police troopers also died when a helicopter they were in crashed while trying to help with the violent events on the ground.

The clashes between white supremacists and counter-protestors on Aug. 11 and 12 should give us all pause as we, as a nation, decide where we want this country to go in the coming days, weeks, months and, yes, even years ahead.

As we reflect on the weekend’s events, we ask: What has happened to the tenet embraced by Christians and followers of other faith traditions to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:39)?

We, Catholics—like several of our bishops have already done—must condemn these heinous and racist actions by a group that felt emboldened enough to display the hatred and anger that were evident in Charlottesville.

“We stand against the evil of racism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. We stand with our sisters and brothers united in the sacrifice of Jesus, by which love’s victory over every form of evil is assured,” said a joint statement on Aug. 13 by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Fla., chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

Chicago’s Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said on Aug. 12 via Twitter: “When it comes to racism, there is only one side: to stand against it.”

Unfortunately, many of the white supremacists believe their support of President Donald J. Trump in the 2016 presidential election gives them the right to perform these heinous acts full of vitriol.

Former Ku Klux Klan (KKK) leader David Duke, who was in attendance at the Virginia protests, said as much.

“We are determined to take our country back,” Duke said from the rally, calling it a “turning point.” “We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”

On Aug. 14, President Trump said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America.”

He added, “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its names are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups.”

Although much progress has been made in the United States to combat racism, we are reminded once again that some people will do whatever it takes—including harming their fellow citizens—to achieve their narrow-minded objectives.

We believe the number of good, decent and loving Americans—who don’t look at the color of someone’s skin, their nationality or their faith tradition and immediately judge that person in a negative light—far outnumber those who allow the evil of prejudice to shape their lives.

The millions who fit in that category must pray fervently for those who want to deny others of their God-given dignity and harbor thoughts of hurting others because they are different. We need to let them know we will not accept this intolerable behavior under any circumstances. And we must continue to teach our younger generations that they must be beacons of light when such darkness emerges.

Providentially, our Church celebrated the memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe on Aug. 14, a few days after the Virginia tragedy. The saint was martyred in Auschwitz after taking the place of a young father who was sentenced to die by the Nazis.

St. Maximilian’s love for his neighbor and his insight into humankind’s battle with good and evil is as relevant today as it was when it was shared in the last issue of his Marian magazine, Knights of the Immaculata, published just before the Nazis arrested him in 1941: “The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?”

—Mike Krokos

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