Theology professor examines racial justice
Haleigh Ehmsen | Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Dr. Christopher Pramuk, associate professor of theology at Xavier University, presented a lecture titled “Crossing the Color Line: A Catholic Perspective on Racial Justice and Responsibility” on Thursday evening.
Pramuk addressed Sr. Madeleva Wolff, former president of Saint Mary’s, and her decision to integrate Saint Mary’s in 1941. Though the decision received a firestorm of controversy, Pramuk quoted Wolff as saying, “If it emptied the school, we would enroll Negro girls in residence.”
Pramuk said there are doorways to address the topic of race relations in America, from the patterns of racial profiling and police brutality to the Ebola crisis currently provoking xenophobic reactions.
“Often people say that problem of racial justice becomes more urgent when you have your own skin in the game,” Pramuk said. “Whites have the luxury of not seeing because they have no skin in the game.”
But as people of faith, Catholics often don’t see the problem as racism, he said. Instead, Catholics see fighting racism as an invitation from Jesus to stand in solidarity and see the dignity in our neighbor.
“Racism is a human problem, crippling something far deeper inside us,” Pramuk said. “[Often] we act from self-justification and the message of Jesus becomes unsettling.
“Jesus seems to be saying if you cannot find me in your neighbor, you will not find me in Church. God has skin in the game.”
It’s important to look at race through the “doorway of faith,” Pramuk said.
“From a Catholic perspective, the root of justice lies in the story of Road to Emmaus,” he said. “How do we learn to recognize the Christ that lives in others? Even in the one we have been taught to fear?”
Pramuk said blindness is a pervasive theme in the Gospels, which provide fitting metaphors of current race relations in America. He said it is important to give people space to talk about race.
“Each of us comes in the conversation about race or refuses it,” he said. “But it’s important to give each other space to grow.”
Pramuk said his book, ‘Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced Encounters Across the Color Line’ is a starting point and a way to make the conversation about racism accessible. Racial hatred is harsh and often looks like the eclipse of blacks of blocking out their light, he said, which calls for intimate conversations.
Pramuk said there is hope in the leadership of Pope Francis and in the universality of the Catholic church.
“Universality is not the as same uniformity,” Pramuk said. “Universality is welcoming.”
Pramuk said young people desire to give their gifts and their lives meaningfully.
“The Church has the opportunity to turn their gazes to the poor and the marginalized,” Pramuk said. “Our physical presence is the best gift we can provide to society.”