By Beth Donze, Clarion Herald
Separating migrant families at the border is just the latest in a litany of acts perpetrated by America’s ruling classes to oppress minority groups, said Jesuit Father Joseph Brown, welcoming attendees to Xavier University’s chapel for the June 19-23 Archbishop Lyke Conference for Black Catholic Leadership.
So when a friend of Father Brown heard someone remark that such familial separations were “un-American,” the friend begged to differ.
“He got so angry because it’s totally American!” said Father Brown, noting how enslaved African families had been similarly ripped apart during the antebellum era and marginalized well after the Civil War through tactics such as lynching, the denial of voting rights and poor education.
Father Brown noted that even his own American community of Jesuit priests and brothers must “live with” the fact that their current status partly is due to the uncompensated labor of the enslaved.
A gathering storm
“Everybody in this room knows that a toxic, poisonous cloud of darkness is spreading over this land,” said Father Brown, citing yet another example of the systemic oppression of minorities from the nation’s history: Native American children in the 19th and 20th centuries being taken from their families, prohibited from speaking their native language and “forced to assimilate into a world in which they had to learn how to do housework and agriculture, where they had (once) been hunters and free.”
Despite these sad chapters in American history, Father Brown called on conference attendees to “walk in the light” while exploring ways to foster leadership in the Black Catholic Church and advocate for the common good.
“Why do you think our ancestors could sing, ‘This little light of mine’? Father Brown asked. “If we’re going to clean the poison out of the air, our fire has to be big and bold and courageous, and we will have to do the radiating. (We must) decide if our children are worth dying for, as opposed to our children dying for us.”
“Walk in the light,” Father Brown added. “The light you carry might be all God needs, in that space and in that time.”