America, Catholics & Elegant Racism

As deftly summarized in this article by Adam Serwer, there is a through line connecting last year's evisceration of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court's five man Catholic majority in Shelby County v. Holder to the infamous1857 Dred Scott decision written by the Court's first Catholic justice, Roger Taney. 

That fact alone is reason enough to give white Catholics in the United States pause this Independence Day regarding the enduring sin of racism, a sin inextricably interwoven with American history for at least 395 years.

The new issue of America, "Black and Catholic", offers a wealth of ways to enter into the topic---from a profile of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eugene Robinson, to a reflection on the life of Sr. Thea Bowman, to Vincent Rogeau's assessment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act's impact, to book recommendations from a distinguished collection of black Catholic intellectuals, to a republication of the editors' reaction to passage of the Civil Rights Act 50 years ago.

My own favorite (a word which when used as here means something like "deeply discomforting because it rings so true") contribution to this collection comes from Boston College professor of systematic theology M. Shawn Copeland.  In "Revisiting Racism: Black Theology and a Legacy of Opporession", Copeland deftly summarizes the emergence of Black Theology from the "time of turmoil" (1954-68) and its enduring revelance in our current age of “elegant racism” which is “invisible, supple, enduring.” 

Many thanks to all the editors and contributors to this issue of America for a lovely and timely Independence Day offering to the rest of us.


Luke Hill is a writer and community organizer in Boston. He blogs at dotCommonweal and MassCommons. 

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