FROM THE EDITOR | Path to integration is a journey with Christ

Events in our community in the past few months have prompted conversations about race relations, justice and equality. For many in St. Louis, these conversations have been uncomfortable. For decades there have been great divides in our communities, where we are too often separated by race and ethnicity, north and south, city and county, old and young.

These divisions might be common, but they don't need to be the norm. We should start with some self-challenge.

In my high school civics class, the teacher challenged us to explore our differences. One day, a student challenged back.

"Are you prejudiced?" the student asked.

"Yes," the teacher responded. "I don't like old people."

That probably wasn't the answer the student expected. He was a bit of a trouble maker and was baiting the teacher, who was wise enough to make it a teaching moment. The incident, now 25 years old, sticks with me. We're human; we all have our prejudices. Jesus' challenge to us is to forsake them and embrace mercy, love and unity.

But let's be realistic: That isn't easy. It takes deep spiritual conversion and changes to our behavior. Humans are stubborn and proud. It's easy to blame everyone else, the media, the government, the system, the culture. It takes great humility to admit that we have issues.

We've all experienced prejudice to some degree, whether because of our skin color, our age, our faith, our physique or our gender. And who among us hasn't exhibited prejudice for similar reasons?

Father Gerry Kleba, pastor of St. Cronan Parish in St. Louis, shared a recent experience (see page 6). Father Kleba said he was afraid of a young black male walking toward him. But the man was headed to a library, as was Father Kleba. "Racism is as pervasive as pollution in the air," Father Kleba told reporter Joe Kenny. "Until we recognize it, we are living in a bubble."

It takes courage to so publicly admit to a flaw in an effort to fix it.

Our own publications could do a better job of bridging divides. We should better represent our faith community in photos and words; we can invite more participation across identities; we can better acquaint ourselves with cultural differences that influence division. Ignorance nourishes our biases. Education starves them.

Combating prejudice starts with us. Integration of the heart is a journey that requires Christ.

Phillips is director of publications for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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