November 1, 2019 – updated June 4, 2020

Racism has been described as America's original sin. It is an injustice woven into the fabric of American society, politics, and culture long before the Constitution was written. It has evolved over time. Racism today looks different than it did 50 years ago, but its effects are still devastating.

This chapter of Works of Love is focused on understanding what racism is and how we can begin to form a Christian response. Every American has some understanding of racism — some conception of what they think it is, at least, and what its effects are. There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings out there. So, first we need to get clear on what racism looks like in America today.

The resources below are meant to help guide prayerful reflection on this issue. St. Ignatius Loyola teaches that we should seek spiritual freedom, where we are aware of our biases and strive not to be mastered by them. If ever there were an issue that demanded consideration from a place of spiritual freedom, racism in America is it. 

Ultimately, the invitation is to conversion and action, continually going deeper in our love for God and for our neighbors. This means realizing biases each of us hold, recognizing our participation in a society that excludes on the basis of race, and then pursuing justice with greater love.

(Note: "Works of Love" is edited by Henry Frank, Director of Communications, and Joe Williams, Communications Associate, both of whom identify as white men. If you have questions or comments about the Works of Love campaign, please feel free to contact Henry at Thanks for praying with us!)

Wake me up Lord, so that the evil of racism
finds no home within me.
Keep watch over my heart Lord,
and remove from me any barriers to your grace,
that may oppress and offend my brothers and sisters.
Fill my spirit Lord, so that I may
give services of justice and peace.
Clear my mind Lord, and use it for your glory.
And finally, remind us Lord that you said,
"blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God."

This prayer comes from "A Prayer Service for Racial Healing in Our Land" (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).

The Assumptions of White Privilege and What We Can Do About It

by Fr. Bryan Massingale

"Amy Cooper knew exactly what she was doing. We all do. And that's the problem.

It has never been easy to be black in America. Still, the past few months have pushed me to depths of outrage, pain and despondency that are unmatched in my 63 years of life. Look at what has transpired..."

Click here for the full article (via National Catholic Reporter).

Black Theology and a Legacy of Oppression

by M. Shawn Copeland

"11 a.m. on Sunday morning remains the most segregated hour in Christian America."

M. Shawn Copeland, professor emerita of systematic theology at Boston College, discusses the complex relationship between racism and Christianity in America, the complicity of American Christians, the development of black theology, and how "elegant racism" continues to oppress communities of color.

Click here to read Professor Copeland's article (America Media).

Pastoral Letter to the People of God in El Paso

by Bishop Mark Joseph Seitz

Following a racially motivate mass shooting this summer in his community, Bishop Seitz of El Paso, Texas, wrote a letter addressed to the people of God. In it, he discusses the racial violence that was perpetrated against his community, the white supremacist language and sentiment that permeates US society and politics, the history of racism along the US border with Mexico, and the need for all of us to examine our hearts. He appeals to Our Lady of Guadalupe, who reminds marginalized people that they matter, that God is with them.

"This may be hard. I know it will be difficult at times for me. Words like racism and white supremacy make us uncomfortable and anxious and I don’t use these labels lightly. We live in a brutally unforgiving culture where these words are tossed about like weapons. But perhaps we are also aware that these conversations may require changes to the way we think and live. Challenging racism and white supremacy, whether in our hearts or in society, is a Christian imperative and the cost of not facing these issues head on, weighs much more heavily on those who live the reality of discrimination."

Click here to read Bishop Seitz's letter. (And if you don't have time to read the entire letter today, read this short article about it from Commonweal)

Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

"In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of 'race,' a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

'Between the World and Me' is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son."

This book is available here.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

by Robin DiAngelo

"Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and 'allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to bad people' (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively."

This book is available here.

Suggestions for Further Reflection:

There are many good resources out there to learn more about the history of racism in America, the policies that brought us to where we are today, and how racism continues to be a systemic problem in American society. Below are some additional resources for further learning and reflection. Ultimately, the hope is that deeper reflection and prayer leads to conversion of heart and action in pursuit of justice. This is a lifelong process, in which all of us are still growing.






Take some time to pray and reflect. This prayer resource from the Sisters of Mercy helps us consider four patterns of racism, pray for those suffering from injustice, ask for forgiveness for the ways we are complicit or have failed to act, and then resolve to work harder.


"We can live in a world where the police don't kill people by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability."

Take action with Campaign Zero.


The Ignatian Solidarity Network posted an article offering some suggestions on ways Jesuit school communities can do a better job making students of color feel safe and included.

Click here to learn more.
 Photo by Martin Nunez Bonilla via Ignatian Solidarity Network.

An Examen for White Allies
by Maddie Murphy (via Ignatian Solidarity Network)

Praying the Examen on a Lenten Journey of Racial Justice
by Ross Jones, SJ (via Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province)

Welcome! Chapter 1: World Day of Migrants and Refugees Chapter 2: Season of Creation Chapter 3: The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice Chapter 4: Shelter the Homeless Chapter 5: Walking with the Excluded Chapter 6: Caring for Our Common Home Chapter 7: Racism in America
Chapter 8: Human Trafficking Chapter 9: The Salvadoran Martyrs Chapter 10: Blessed Are You Who Are Hungry Now

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