June 3, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – The Adrian Dominican Sisters stand in support of the following powerful “Red Record Statement” issued by the National Black Sisters’ Conference on “21st Century Lynchings in America.”
21st Century Lynchings in America: Our Red Record Statement
Issued by the National Black Sisters’ Conference
In 1895 the activist and Civil Rights icon, Ida B. Wells, wrote a research pamphlet called The Red Record. In it Mrs. Wells tabulated the numbers of lynchings in the United States since the Emancipation of African slaves. The conclusion was that little had changed for the Negro in America by the end of the nineteenth century. The Emancipation Proclamation, and federal programs like the Freedmen’s Bureau, did not prevent the death of thousands of Negros by the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century.
Ida B. Wells writes: “in slave times the Negro was kept subservient and submissive…but with freedom the Negro is whipped, scourged, he is killed.” Frederick Douglass, in a review of Mrs. Wells’ groundbreaking study, wrote: “If American moral sensitivity was not hardened by the persistent infliction of outrage and crime against colored people, a scream of horror, shame, and indignation would rise from heaven.” America’s sensibility is still hardened in the twenty-first century. Black Americans still scream in horror. We still cannot breathe. Black Lives still do not Matter.
One-hundred and twenty-four years later we are still writing the same story! African American men, women, and children are still being lynched, murdered, and executed for playing with a toy gun, watching television in one’s own home, and mistaken identity, driving or jogging while black, and being choked to death in cold blood by law enforcement officers, who have sworn to serve and protect.
We must speak and never forget their names.
Reason “Sean” Reed shot and killed in Indianapolis; Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician in Louisville, Ky., shot eight times in her bed; Ahmaud Aubrey killed while out jogging; and George Floyd dying from a police officer’s knee on his neck as Mr. Floyd screamed, “I can’t breathe!”
The National Black Sisters’ Conference (NBSC) condemns the viral disease of systemic racism that America has legitimized and practiced for over 400 years! We will not remain silent! There is more than one pandemic affecting our nation!
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound in the starless midnight of racism…”
If this country is to reclaim its moral stature, we must confess and atone for our original sin, or America will self-destruct as a nation. As Malcolm X once warned the white power structure, “The chickens have come home to roost.”
Without justice there can be no peace and justice demands that:
Finally, as black Catholic religious women, we call upon Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda, Archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and all bishops of good will to speak out on behalf of the church by denouncing these violent acts of hate and racism.
As Dr. King told us, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
If the most recent pastoral letter on racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts,” written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is to have any moral legitimacy, then our episcopal leaders must give more than lip-service to addressing the sin of racism that is destroying communities of color in this nation.
As Christians, as Catholics, as people of faith, we must do more than just pray; we must model Jesus’ message to love one’s neighbor.
Our neighbor cannot breathe! Our neighbor is being lynched! Our neighbor is dying!
Our Red Record of Hate must end now!
May 29, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Through the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, of which the Congregation is a part, the Adrian Dominican Sisters join more than 100 national faith leaders – from Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions, representing major denominations, national faith-based organizations, local congregations, and millions of people of faith across the country – to call for a National Day of Mourning and Lament to mark the death of more than 100,000 people in the United States from COVID-19.
The faith leaders call on federal, state, and local elected officials to observe Monday, June 1, as National Day of Mourning and Lament – a day marked by moments of silence, lowering of flags, interfaith vigils, ringing of bells, and civic memorials.
The call is being supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, who represent over 1,400 mayors across the country. Mayors lead on the frontline of the COVID-19 response effort and continue to model critical local leadership in this difficult time.
Together, interfaith leaders and mayors across the nation call us to mourn, lament, and honor the dead, acknowledge the unequal nature of our suffering, pray together for the healing of the nation, and recommit to the difficult work ahead.
“We pray in a special way for the nearly 5,400 Michiganders who have lost their lives to COVID-19 and their heartbroken families,” said Patricia Siemen, OP, Prioress of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. “This call for mourning and lamentation must also become a call to action to address the racial inequities revealed by the pandemic,” she said. In Michigan, over 40% of COVID-19 deaths are suffered by African Americans who only comprise 14% of the population. Nationwide, Latinos, African Americans, Native Americans and other people of color disproportionately suffer the effects of the pandemic.
“We applaud Governor Whitmer for creating the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities charged with addressing the racial injustices that were amplified by the virus,” said Sister Siemen. “Her steadfast leadership in maintaining strong state guidelines to protect Michiganders against the coronavirus is now needed, as we emerge from this crisis, to ensure that the lives of all Michiganders are honored and protected.”
The National Day of Mourning and Lament will follow a weekend of diverse services – Friday Muslim, Saturday Jewish, and Sunday Christian (including Protestant, Catholic, Evangelical, African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American) all united in times of lament and mourning for the dead. The vocation of remembering will unite across lines of religion and traditions and transcend our politics.