GUEST COLUMNIST | Sharing of the heart and forgiviness

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After Fontbonne President Michael Pressimone opened the "Take Your Summer Seriously: gathering June 29, Margaret-Mary Moore played guitar and offered a musical rendition of "Open the eyes of my heart," and I followed with a prayer of thanksgiving for allowing this gathering for sharing of the hearts and minds.

We watched the "Eye on the Prize" episode about Emmet Till's murder. Afterward, Father Sean Martin, president of Aquinas Institute of Theology, started the discussion by offering key questions relating to the documentary and how it impacted the viewers. What came out of the hearts and minds of those present were questions about the injustice of the trial for Emmett Till's murder and how the injustice still exists today.

One woman was in tears as she related how her daughter, on the way to Mass on Sunday morning, said that she hoped that her pastor would speak out about the devastating attack in the Orlando, Fla. But she was disappointed when nothing was mentioned by her pastor. The woman also asked what it would take for her to get fellow parishioners involved.

Another attendee stated that it only takes "one holy parishioner to make one holy priest." Whatever the case, the woman isn't the only one wondering what it takes for people to understand how important it is to "just have a conversation." That goes for black and white people.

Some white people don't seem to understand how totally privileged they are, based only on the color of their skin: "Yours only for the asking."

Black people haven't had these privileges, but they don't come out to have these conversations.

And so my question to my black brothers and sisters is similar to the white woman's question. How do I get my church members and brethren to come out to have the conversation?

A black person might ask: "Why should I come? I have lived the experience. Why do I need to come and hear about the experience?"

My answer as a person of color to those who choose not to come is: "Yes, a white person needs to hear the conversations, because they cannot feel or understand the degradation, humiliation and pain of the black man and what he has gone through and is still going through after all these years. But we as black people must come, too, and have these conversations with our white brothers and sisters. Not only to discuss and discern what we have seen and heard but to allow ourselves, all of us, to become more educated about the things we do not know about each other, to rid ourselves of the age-old myths and stereotypes that we have heard about each other. No child is born a racist. The discussion around the dinner table must change. We must change."

It's up to us, a race of people who have already been extremely forgiving, to continue to forgive and open our hearts and minds to conversation and dialogue.

When the woman mentioned her daughter wondering if the pastor would address the attack in Florida, all I can say is that herein lies the problem.

The shepherds of the Church are the "first open doorway to conversation and dialogue." When those doors are opened wide and the pastors' and Church leaders' voices are heard, real conversations begin.

The conversations at Fontbonne University cracked open the doors. It's up to us to carry the message of conversation and dialogue forward to help open the doors to bring about serious and much-needed change.

Dempsey is a member of St. Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist Parish in St. Louis and is a retired district manager for World Book Childcraft International. 

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