Updated: Jan 27
Confronting the presence and effects of racism makes us uncomfortable. But, when we give in to the privilege to look away or stop talking amid discomfort, we manifest indifference.
“I’m tired of talking about race.” That was a statement directed toward me by a gentleman following an event focused on policy recommendations to end poverty. I had asked during the discussion that evening, why race was not dealt with in any of the analysis or recommendations put forth by the event’s distinguished panel. My response to the gentleman’s statement: “I’m tired of race being relevant.”
That encounter has stuck with me—not because that was the first time I’d heard someone express exasperation with discussing the topic of race. I actually had a very similar experience just a couple months earlier in a discussion related to criminal justice reform. What struck me in this instance was the privilege that allowed this gentleman to be “tired of talking” and the boldness with which he approached me—especially given our context: a discussion about poverty. Decades of research support the relationship between race and socioeconomic status in America.
I get it. Confronting the presence and effects of racism makes us uncomfortable. But, when we give in to the privilege to look away or stop talking amid discomfort, we manifest indifference.
Indifference is the enemy of justice
For if we are unresponsive to the oppression of others, we have deemed their suffering insignificant.
There are times I am discouraged by how far we’ve yet to go to become a community where one’s race and/or zip code no longer determines life outcomes. I am blessed by the near-daily opportunity to find encouragement in the people around me who are testing their assumptions about “others,” challenging the status quo and exploring their role as agents for equity. To me, each of these represents faith in action. The light in me honors the light in you.
- Acooa Lee Ellis
This article first published in Catholic Charities of St. Paul/Minneapolis Seed of Justice.