Equity and Inclusion


In response to the proposal from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) that congregations focus on the dismantling of racism, the Adrian Dominican Sisters began by identifying resources that can assist us in raising our consciousness of white privilege and white supremacy, both personally and systematically.

Since January 2021, our Toward Communion: Undoing Racism and Embracing Diversity Committee and our Justice Promoters have collaborated on a project to provide information on prominent Black and Indigenous Catholics who have made significant contributions to the church and society, along with reflection questions and a prayer.

In May of 2022, Kevin D. Hofmann was named the founding Director of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion for the Congregation. With the goal of normalizing conversations about race and culture and discussing what it means to feel included and excluded, Kevin began contributing to this blog in June of 2022 and shares his unique experience of growing up Black in a white family in Detroit.

 

Equity and Inclusion Project

rss

Click here to return to the latest update


Whose Life Matters?

sign being held up by black protester that says We are Tired!

Whose Life Matters?

By Kevin Hofmann 
Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion

We sat in a circle in the lobby of a dorm hall. About 15 of us were new to Alma College’s campus, all white except for me with my toasted almond skin. It was orientation week, and we were sitting together getting to know each other. The leader of my group pulled from their backpack a roll of toilet paper. She instructed us to take as much as we needed and those were her only instructions. She passed the roll around and students varied in how much toilet paper they took. Some took one square and others took a large portion of the roll.

The one very self-confident kid from St. Johns, Michigan took an obnoxious amount of toilet paper. He was the kind of student that loved attention, and he understood the weight of his charismatic personality. Everything was a performance for him and in every activity he strived to draw more people to his side. I would guess his approval rating would hover around 50%. His personality was attractive to some and repulsive to others, there was no place to land in between.

Immediately, I didn’t care for him because he moved freely in this new environment. He walked into the room as if he owned it. I slid into the room most times hoping no one would see me and when they didn’t acknowledge me, I got even more frustrated. The voice and confidence I had in high school disappeared when I set foot on the campus of this predominately White institution.

The toilet paper made its way around the circle and back to the leader. She then instructed us that we would go around the circle and each person would have to share one piece of information about themselves for every square of toilet paper they took. We began and student by student shared who they were. Some shared they were athletes, some shared they were valedictorians, and some shared they lived on a farm.

When we came to the self-confident student, we knew we were going to be there for a while because he had taken so much toilet paper. He shared he was an athlete, homecoming king, a political science major, and a member of Future Farmers of America (we didn’t have that in Detroit). Then as he was struggling for things to say, he looked at me and proudly stated, “I have never met a Black person in real life.” Without pausing, he went on to his next fact, which I never heard. Everything slowed like it was moving through Jell-O. I felt my blood pressure increase with my heart rate. I was trying to control my skin tone. I knew when I got upset that my skin can turn noticeably red. It was my physiological response to what I saw as a threat. I tried to combat the response by breathing deeply, slowing down my heart and looking away. I felt all eyes in the circle were on me waiting for my response and I refused to give it both verbally and physiologically.

The activity ended and we took a break for lunch. As I walked to lunch, that statement rang in my head like the bell at Notre Dame. Then the thought occurred to me. I grew up in Detroit, one of the blackest cities in the country, yet I never remember a day where I didn’t see white people. I understood I could not successfully navigate life in this country without having daily interactions with white people. It wasn’t that I didn’t like white people, it was that I didn’t have the privilege this student had, and that made me angry. Anger rose in me that took up residence in me for the next four years. In 1985 on that campus, I lived the experience that Black Lives DID NOT Matter and it hurt deeply.

In July 2013 the Black Lives Matter movement was born. It was in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who stalked, confronted, and killed Trayvon Martin. It was obvious to Mr. Zimmerman and the jury that Black Lives DID NOT Matter, and it hurt deeply. I can still picture the courtyard where young Trayvon took his last breath in the dark, alone with a stranger holding a gun over him.

Trayvon was walking through his father’s neighborhood, on his way home from the store carrying an iced tea and Skittles. My heart broke imagining what his last moments must have been like and I chased away thoughts that Trayvon could easily have been one of my sons.

Soon after Black Lives Matter gained attention, it became impossible to hear Black Lives Matter without "All Lives Matter" sneaking up behind it. A few weeks ago, Kanye West, who is an amazing musician who likes controversy and attention, showed up at a fashion show with conservative instigator Candace Owens wearing White Lives Matter shirts, and that cut even deeper. Those three words were heard as "Black Lives Do Not Matter but White Lives Do." It was even more painful coming from two people who look like me. Now, to be honest, many of us in the Black community have asked to trade Candace Owens to another team long ago. We understand her loyalty lies with her bank account so she pushes whatever agenda will get her the most zeros. What upsets me the most is how some will take what these two attention-craving individuals say and use it to prove and prop up their exclusionary agenda.

What I have learned is that this simple statement, Black Lives Matter, can be read two different ways. I think those who object to the slogan read it as, “ONLY Black Lives Matter.” Others read it as “Black Lives Matter, TOO!” The initial push behind Black Lives Matter was to draw attention to a problem that needed addressing, the taking of innocent Black lives — that was it! Our community was shouting that we were, and remain, in crisis and need help.

The response to our S.O.S. cry was a lot like that student in the dorm lobby. “Well, we got along fine without any help from the Black community, why can’t you get along without us?” Instead of responding to a request for help, many heard the devaluing of white lives is the only way to bring more value to Black lives. Why can’t we understand that we are not cutting up apple pie? One doesn’t have to suffer so the other can get more — justice should have an unlimited supply, enough for all to benefit.

I read the slogan Black Lives Matter too, and the only helpful response is, “YES, THEY DO!”

your Comment will be showing after administrator's approval







b i u quote


Save Comment
Showing 0 Comment


Subscribe to receive these blog posts directly to your email inbox. You can unsubscribe at any time and we do not use your information for any other purpose.

  • Equity and Inclusion Blog

Search Equity and Inclusion Blog

Recent Posts

  • Better Than Turkey Posted 4 days ago
    Better Than Turkey By Kevin Hofmann  Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion The last weekend in November was a tense time for my family growing up. My father was raised in Cleveland and ...
  • Black Catholic Project: Respond to Our Survey Posted 5 days ago
    Black Catholic Project: Respond to Our Survey Since January 2021, our Toward Communion: Undoing Racism and Embracing Diversity Committee and our Justice Promoters have collaborated on a project to provide information on prominent Black and ...
  • Giving Thanks Posted last week
    Giving Thanks By Kevin Hofmann  Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion Yesterday while watching the Detroit Lion’s third victory in a row, I began prep work for Thursday’s guest of honor. My responsibilities are ...
  • Black Catholic Project: Kobe Bryant (1978-2020) Posted 2 weeks ago
    Black Catholic Project: Kobe Bryant (1978-2020) Seen as a legend and hero in the sports world, Kobe Bryant is not projected as the devout Catholic that he was. His great success, through discipline and hard ...
  • Ghost Supper Posted 2 weeks ago
    Ghost Supper By Kevin Hofmann  Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion My grandmother was an amazing German immigrant. She was raised in Bad Herenalb, Germany, and came to settle in a German neighborhood ...
  • Whose Life Matters? Posted 3 weeks ago
    Whose Life Matters? By Kevin Hofmann  Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion We sat in a circle in the lobby of a dorm hall. About 15 of us were new to Alma College’s ...
  • Proceed With Caution Posted last month
    Proceed With Caution By Kevin Hofmann  Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion Once a year at my predominately white college, one of the fraternities held a party that they called the “Back to ...
  • Sister Jamie Phelps, OP, A Story of Faith Posted last month
    Black Catholic Project: Sister Jamie Phelps, OP, A Story of Faith Sister Jamie Phelps, OP, is the pioneer African American woman who felt a deep call to join the Adrian Dominican Sisters — an all-white Catholic ...
  • Sir Doug: The Willing Posted last month
    Sir Doug: The Willing By Kevin Hofmann  Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion When I worked at Nationwide Insurance, I had a co-worker who became a good friend. His name was Doug and ...
  • Spatial Awareness Posted last month
    Spatial Awareness By Kevin Hofmann  Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Cultural Inclusion When I was 10 years old, my favorite thing to do was go to the mall. I would spend the weekdays trying ...
Read More »

People of African Descent on the Path to Sainthood

Printable bookmark of African Americans on their Way to Sainthood (PDF)

U.S. Black Catholic History Links

Black Catholic History page by Seattle University

Timeline from the National Black Catholic Congress

Sister Jamie T. Phelps, OP, discusses Black Catholics in America with Dr. Paul Lakeland for Fairfield University's "Voices of Others" video series

News report on one of the oldest Black Catholic parishes in the U.S., St. Elizabeth Catholic Church (formerly St. Monica) in Chicago, Illinois