“[R]acial bigotry is not merely a product of intentional interactions between individuals but racialized social relationships developed over generations and manifested in all of society’s major institutions.” [Johnny Eric Williams, “Unveiling Systemic Racism: ‘Barack the Magic Negro’” Revisited,” Racism Review, 1-13-09]
The above statement has been a difficult one for dominant cultures to grasp. Sin, after all, isn’t systemic – it’s personal, that is, it’s the deliberate act of a person. A person lynches another human being; a person withholds an employee’s wages; a person throws toxins into drinking water …these are acts over which a person has personal control and therefore personal responsibility.
However, despite the fact that many individuals know better than to lynch another human being and are personally revolted at the thought of lynching, even despite the fact that lynching is illegal, doesn’t entirely eliminate a culture of bigotry. Subtle expressions of racial prejudices may linger even in individuals whose personal values eschew such bigotry…ask anyone “of color.” The very term “racial” in such a context is a good example since, in realty, for all the variations of humanity’s skin tones and hair textures, we are a single, genetic “race.”
Difficult as it is for us, as a society, to embrace the full personhood of people from differing backgrounds and appearances – particularly when such a realization seems to interfere with our own self-interests – we are further along that path than the one that recognizes, as a society, the personhood of human beings who are not yet emancipated from the womb. Our legal institutions, for now, have put the problem into the lap of the woman who carries an in utero person, treating him or her as property rather than as a distinct and individual creature.
In such a society as ours, where the dominant culture infects not only legal institutions but social institutions such as the media and schools, as well, even people who would describe themselves as “pro-life” are trapped by norms of abortion-supportive expressions and behaviors. The Catholic Church in the United States finds itself in this position.
A glaring example of this problem is its Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) collection that, as an organization, argues exists to “help the poor.”
When critics have pointed out that a disproportionate number of CCHD grants support organizations – many of them Alinskyian organizing efforts – that are in some way related to Culture of Death policies, CCHD defenders are apoplectic. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good writes, for instance:
In recent months, the campaign has been attacked by right-wing bloggers and partisan ideologues. While they have successfully pressured CCHD to de-fund groups that have taken some positions opposed to church teaching, these critics have also launched a concerted effort to exploit the ACORN scandal to get CCHD to stop ALL funding for community organizing efforts. At least five dioceses have cancelled this year's collection. Several bishops have threatened to raise the issue next month at the U..S. bishops' annual meeting in Baltimore.
The assumption in this response is that CCHD not only doesn’t need to concern itself with the social injustice of abortion but that where “solutions” to poverty – healthcare legislation, for example – include fellowship with pro-abortion forces, they may morally be pursued. Healthcare for some, according to this culture-of-death infused thought, trumps abortion for others.
That deadly consequence of funding organizations with one foot in the culture of death political camp never crosses the collective CCHD mind and fails to horrify it is the equivalent (by analogy...it's actually more serious) of a racist policy never crossing the mind of a 1950s white legislator. The racism isn't overt - it's part of the subconscious fabric of times. Similarly, today the pro-abortion position may not be overt...heck, the good folks at CCHD are surely good, pro-life Catholics...but the subconscious behavior betrays a participation in the culture of death. The issue of pro-abortion consequences simply doesn't enter the equation.
That’s a big problem - Reform CCHD Now [www.reformcchdnow.com].