This week, we as a nation, watched the horrific and heart breaking death of Mr. George Floyd while being subdued by police in Minneapolis. (Before you read on, remember now what your first feelings were when you read this first sentence.) 

We can view this as an isolated event, but even then, it is by any measure of human common decency a profound disregard of the human dignity of Mr. George Floyd who when he cried out for help, his cries were ignored. 

But our brothers and sisters in Christ of the African American community know this is not an isolated event but just another confirmation of the bias and unjust discrimination they endure in so many ways everyday of their lives, still in these United States. They understand that racism is not only interpersonal relationships.  Racial harmony is not only that we become friends and grow in mutual understanding.  It is also confronting the way in which racism is embedded in the institutions of our country: criminal justice, education, health care, finance, real estate, etc. This is systemic or institutional racism.  Change will only come when we confront this reality as a nation.  

Duca, Michael color.pdf

So after countless other killings have been witnessed, painful moments that we as a city and diocese have already just a few years ago suffered through, the frustration is WHY is this still happening …  

The angry outburst we see is out of frustration and wondering what does it take to get others to listen and make real change. This is a human response that we all have when we feel we have been treated unjustly.  

The heart of this matter for us as Christians is to seek the radical answer. By “radical” I mean the original meaning of the word from the Latin “radix” (meaning root), so the radical answer is the foundational cause that allows these injustices to continue in our nation. I am unable to lay out a full answer but I think I can point to the necessary foundational change that must take place. We need to REALLY LISTEN!!!  

What do I mean? All of us have a fundamental view of the world. It has been shaped in many ways by experience, faith, influence of others, the way we were raised and the values we received from our parents and our inner choices. This is part of who we are and how we interpret the world. Think about my first statement in this article, or think about your first opinion/feeling when you saw the video of Mr. Floyds death. That raw emotional response, your first reaction, is all about your world view. Consider how you have interpreted the events of the past weeks. We may very well have chosen to “pick and choose” those moments/events that prove our own biases, we will listen to commentators that share our world view and will interpret it for us and when we see what we want to see that proves our point.Then we are convinced that our world view is unchallenged. Or it is summed up in the confidence that “I am right.” But the minute we do that we stop listening and nothing changes.  

The only beginning to real change will be when we don’t let ourselves be distracted by the violent protests, the intricacies of law, the life story of Mr. Floyd’s mistakes in life, the biased reporting and clear our minds so we can listen to what our Catholic (put in your own faith) African American brothers and sisters are experiencing and believe what they tell us as true. This is hard because it may mean that our understanding of how the world works will be fundamentally challenged, at its root. This is radical listening that moves the heart to open up to a real conversation and to change our way of thinking and acting. This kind of listening is prompted by the Holy Spirit because it seeks the real truth, a truth that transforms the heart. But until we listen in this radical way … nothing will change. And when nothing changes the racism embedded in our hearts, even if we don’t see it, will endure. 

When I first arrived in Baton Rouge I connected with a group process called “Dialogue on Race Louisiana” that gave me a chance to listen, and it was a profound help in seeing with new eyes. I pray that before we repeat the same way of processing the current crisis where we all end up feeling comfortable in our old way of seeing or feeling even more deeply frustrated, we will take the risk to really listen to one another and in the pain and healing within that moment we will begin to change the world we live in together.