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An Introduction to Race and Racism

By Chris Kellerman, S.J.

In 1999 during his trip to the United States, Pope John Paul II told Americans, “As the new millennium approaches, there remains another great challenge facing… the whole country: to put an end to every form of racism, a plague which your Bishops have called one of the most persistent and destructive evils of the nation.” 

Since JSRI was founded in 2007, we have taken the pope’s call seriously. The legacy of slavery haunts the Gulf South, both in memory and in reality: it is one of our nation’s great sins for which we have never made atonement. Its effects, and the effects of decades of convict leasing, Jim Crow laws, redlining, and mass incarceration, are glaringly obvious today. Along with studying the effects of past issues, we look at other ways in which racism exists in society: through environmental destruction that disproportionately affects communities of color, continued housing segregation, health and wealth disparities, nativist attitudes against immigrants, and the failure of the United States to uphold its treaty obligations to Native Americans.

Fueled by our faith, we are committed to seeking racial justice in the Gulf South.