At the Jesuit Schools Network summer of 2016 Colloquium at Xavier University in Cinncinati, Ohio, USA, David Laughlin, Eric Clark and Danielle Harrison provided an address on the topic: Compassion and Race.
David Laughlin introduced the speakers and asked the audience to consider Eucharist and the contemplation of the Trinity as a pathway to seeing the unity of life among our fellow human beings. He also emphasized a need for Jesuit spirituality to keep people engaged in the conversation and not polarized in political, racial and religious argumentation and segregation.
Eric Clark is the President of Loyola Academy, a Jesuit Nativity School in St. Louis. Dr. Clark provided a reflection that looked deeply into the nature of compassion as truly acted out from one person to others. This talk identified that people’s lives improve when they are compassionate toward others. This is proven in science and psychology. It is also deeply held in our Faith. Dr. Clark noted the great need for compassion in outlining the disparity of circumstance and condition that exists in the United States when looking at matters of race and history. From employment to crime; education to health care; life expectancy to stress, there exist great disparities between races in our country. Compassion, as practiced, Dr. Clark emphasized with scripture as a reference, can lead us to reconciliation and a greater vision for the Kingdom of God.
Danielle Harrison provided the insight that the disparity of race in the United States can be well understood in the Catholic tradition of Original Sin. No matter how much anyone may wish to proclaim our separation from the reasons that disparity started in our history, we are all a part of that origination and it impacts how we live today. Thus, to acknowledge our “Original Sin” in this Country on matters of race, may provide us the freedom to discuss and work together for a better future. Mrs. Harrison was able to weave various personal experiences into her presentation that identified her Haitian background as often irrelevant in the United States because she is “black”. She shared her family’s personal stories of engagement with law enforcement and how parents of different racial backgrounds see their responsibilities different in instructing children’s behavior. She offered insights from the perspective of her Caucasian husband who has witnessed first hand the treatment of Mrs. Harrison and has a perspective that one might simply not otherwise understand. Mrs. Harrison then offered reflections on her experience in our Jesuit school, – one she loves – but with troubles at times with parents and students and faculty based upon race. The ultimate goal of Mrs. Harrison’s address implored the audience to consider their students optimal ability to be formed in Jesuit education and the many obstacles they must overcome to operate in a high functioning capacity. In this consideration, Mrs. Harrison challenged us as educators to reflect on our role, our experience, our own bias and to consider mutual paths forward that acknowledge our ‘original sin’ while helping all to the freedom to engage the struggle for a greater good that reflects the Kingdom of God.
David Laughlin is the President of St. Louis University High School, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
To watch the full Keynote: Compassion and Race, please click here.