Apr 29

"The Roots of Racism"

by Sargent Shriver Peace Institute | 04/29/2019 6:00AM | Quote of the Week | Justice | Human Rights | Civil Rights

 "The Roots of Racism"

"The Roots of Racism"

Our Quote of the Week tackles an important topic that continues to influence the systems in which we operate and to adversely affect the lives of people of color: racism. The quote is from Sargent Shriver's keynote address at the first gathering of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice; Sargent Shriver was serving as the Conference's chair at the time. In his capacity as President of both the Chicago Public School Board and the board of the Catholic Interracial Council, Sargent Shriver fought alongside African American community leaders throughout the 1950s to successfully desegregate schools, housing developments, hospitals, and other institutions in Chicago.

It's important to note that Sargent Shriver's Catholic faith informed his views on racism in particular and on inequality in general. Quoting St. Paul in his speech, he reminds the audience that human beings are "are spiritual beings united in a real and effective way into one body — a living, acting body, busy in the work of saving the world from the effects of sin, death, corruption, fear, pride and prejudice." When we recognize each other's humanity and when we act with love, argued Sargent Shriver, we live in community with each other and avoid the conflict and violence that comes from what today we would refer to as "othering," deeming those who are different than we are as threatening or inferior.

Sargent Shriver's desire to combat racism and inequality stayed with him throughout his life. It is visible in the values he asserted when he led the Peace Corps, the War on Poverty, and even Special Olympics later in his life. You can read more about Sargent Shriver's civil rights work here.

Many things have changed since Sargent Shriver spoke these words in 1958, but it would be irresponsible to ignore or to downplay the impact of racism and racial violence on us today. An honest look around will show that divisions based on race affect so much of our daily lives. From lack of equal treatment in the criminal justice system, to unethical banking practices that still show the remnants of redlining, to workplace discrimination, unjust and inhumane immigration policies, and violence triggered by white supremacy, we still operate within a system based on white privilege that makes it impossible for all of us to be treated as equals and to live in peace. We need to keep talking about race and to stand against racism whenever we have the opportunity.

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