June 3, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – The Adrian Dominican Sisters stand in support of the following powerful “Red Record Statement” issued by the National Black Sisters’ Conference on “21st Century Lynchings in America.”
21st Century Lynchings in America: Our Red Record Statement
Issued by the National Black Sisters’ Conference
In 1895 the activist and Civil Rights icon, Ida B. Wells, wrote a research pamphlet called The Red Record. In it Mrs. Wells tabulated the numbers of lynchings in the United States since the Emancipation of African slaves. The conclusion was that little had changed for the Negro in America by the end of the nineteenth century. The Emancipation Proclamation, and federal programs like the Freedmen’s Bureau, did not prevent the death of thousands of Negros by the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Ida B. Wells writes: “in slave times the Negro was kept subservient and submissive…but with freedom the Negro is whipped, scourged, he is killed.” Frederick Douglass, in a review of Mrs. Wells’ groundbreaking study, wrote: “If American moral sensitivity was not hardened by the persistent infliction of outrage and crime against colored people, a scream of horror, shame, and indignation would rise from heaven.” America’s sensibility is still hardened in the twenty-first century. Black Americans still scream in horror. We still cannot breathe. Black Lives still do not Matter.
One-hundred and twenty-four years later we are still writing the same story! African American men, women, and children are still being lynched, murdered, and executed for playing with a toy gun, watching television in one’s own home, and mistaken identity, driving or jogging while black, and being choked to death in cold blood by law enforcement officers, who have sworn to serve and protect.
We must speak and never forget their names.
Reason “Sean” Reed shot and killed in Indianapolis; Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician in Louisville, Ky., shot eight times in her bed; Ahmaud Aubrey killed while out jogging; and George Floyd dying from a police officer’s knee on his neck as Mr. Floyd screamed, “I can’t breathe!”
The National Black Sisters’ Conference (NBSC) condemns the viral disease of systemic racism that America has legitimized and practiced for over 400 years! We will not remain silent! There is more than one pandemic affecting our nation!
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound in the starless midnight of racism…”
If this country is to reclaim its moral stature, we must confess and atone for our original sin, or America will self-destruct as a nation. As Malcolm X once warned the white power structure, “The chickens have come home to roost.”
Without justice there can be no peace and justice demands that:
Finally, as black Catholic religious women, we call upon Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, Archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and all bishops of good will to speak out on behalf of the church by denouncing these violent acts of hate and racism.
As Dr. King told us, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
If the most recent pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is to have any moral legitimacy, then our episcopal leaders must give more than lip-service to addressing the sin of racism that is destroying communities of color in this nation.
As Christians, as Catholics, as people of faith, we must do more than just pray; we must model Jesus’ message to love one’s neighbor.
Our neighbor cannot breathe! Our neighbor is being lynched! Our neighbor is dying!
Our Red Record of Hate must end now!
May 27, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – The General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters issued the following statement in response to the death of George Floyd.
We are deeply troubled and distressed by the violent assault on and resulting death of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man, at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. His anguished cry, “I can’t breathe,” as an officer pressed his knee into his neck, harkened back to the cries six years ago of Eric Garner, another unarmed African-American man who died in New York police custody.
His cry brings to mind the long and growing list of African Americans who have been killed, seemingly for no reason other than being black. “Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.
Our Christian faith tradition holds that we are all one people, one body; each made in the image of God.
In his powerful videotaped sermon, “The Cross and the Lynching Tree: A Requiem for Ahmaud Arbery,” Rev. Otis Moss III speaks of racism as a virus that has infected the spirit and soul of our country. Ahmaud Arbery, a young black jogger and “a man of potential,” Rev. Moss says, “was attacked and killed by men infected with America’s most common and potent viral agent. …The death of Ahmaud Arbery is not an anomaly but a historical pattern of behavior that binds every American to an unexamined history of our nation.”
Rev. Moss powerfully summarizes that unexamined history in his 22-minute sermon. It is a history that we Americans must acknowledge – and then set ourselves on a soul-searching course, powered by courage and love, to make real the ideals of freedom and equality on which our nation was founded.
Members of the Adrian Dominican Sisters General Council are Sisters Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress; Frances Nadolny, OP, Administrator and General Councilor; Mary Margaret Pachucki, OP, Vicaress and General Councilor; and Patricia Harvat, OP, and Elise D. García, OP, General Councilors