By David C. Okonkwo
Who could believe how fast we are here in February 2021 already! A month we celebrate African Americans we termed “Black History Month,” thanks to Dr. Carter G. Goodson. On February 28th, our Diocese will celebrate Black History Month with a 10:15 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in San Bernardino.
Last summer was a good education for us as a country, as Catholics and Christians. In a way, it also pushed us a bit further apart, including in our churches. So, in wondering why, the question of equality rings aloud. And the future of our Church is on my mind. Are we going to come back the “same old,” or a stronger, newer Church?
You know that Black History Month is American history month! So, we all know the history and what happened to black people over 400 years ago to begin. But continued in different degrees up until recent in brutal manners. Of which remnants of these attitudes and mind sets have persisted all through these days. Psychology tells us that it has persisted because these ways of life have been handed down from generation to generation, just like culture is handed down. Most times we continue living that way without checking ourselves. Even as Christians we hand it down, too, just the way we inherited it.
St. Paul says that when he was a child he behaved like one and, as an adult, he learned to behave differently, like an adult. What can we glean from Paul here; so we learned the way of our fathers, mothers, and grandpas and grandmas, uncles and aunts. Most of them we say they are good people, though today we know some of the ways we learned are hurtful, demeaning and in some cases downright wrong. And yet, we cannot seem to let go of those ways, in some cases we have embraced it just to belong or have accepted it to the point that we argue it and double down.
Well, let me say it this way to those of us who are Catholics/Christians the people of the Way, we who follow the way of Jesus the Christ. Those old ways are un-Christian. They go contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church. They go contrary to the law of nature. We all talk about being a good Christian. Well, black folks and the rest of colored folks bear the brunt of these negative treatments and they are Christians/Catholics, too. They are children of God just like every person, like your families. And God says you shall treat them like you treat yourself. And I know we all agree with that. But not much has changed in our country and in our Church. And the only way big change for the good will come is when a majority of White/European folks raise their voice. It is good we feel bad and awful for our history of racism but without action, it is just a feeling and it will pass away with time. The pandemic has given us an opportunity for a good change. We can resolve to ridding ourselves of our old ways and commit to Jesus’ way and treating all like Jesus will treat them.
David C. Okonkwo is the Director of the Diocesan Ministry to Catholics of African Descent.