In the Spring 2021 semester, Saint Anselm students have been discussing the construct of race and how it affects Christian theology. Professor Ward Holder’s Race and Theology course has met virtually with guest lecturers and more frequently, with a group of theology students from Tumaini University Makumira in Tanzania thanks to a grant from the American Academy of Religion (AAR), and a grant from the Saint Anselm College Fund for Catholic Social Teaching.
Joseph A. Favazza, Ph.D., President of Saint Anselm College
To the Saint Anselm Community,
As an institution, we are guided by our Catholic and Benedictine mission and identity in which all human life is valued and all are worthy of the same dignity and respect. For this reason, we have spoken forcefully with a collective voice, naming racism a social evil and recognizing that it is Black people who, time and again, disproportionately bear the weight of it.
I came of age in a city where the population was majority African-American, but the political and economic power rested solely with the white population. I witnessed first-hand countless ways that black lives were systematically discounted: rundown schools, substandard housing, poverty-level wages, and violent crime. As a grandson of immigrants, I escaped race-based systems that others born in the same city but with a different color skin could not. Black lives didn’t seem to matter much then; now I have a moral imperative to affirm that they do.
I recognize the weight of these words and the risk of having them conflated as support for a politicized BLM movement. This is not my intention and it is not the role of the college to endorse a particular position, group or movement. However, I choose to speak these words with purpose because a statement on racial equity that does not expressly affirm that Black lives matter is a half measure and a muted response to a systemic issue that has been at the root of our nation since its inception. In this critical moment, we must move beyond fear and move forward through empathy and action.
To be clear, I have a deep respect and appreciation for members of the law enforcement community, who in the heat of this social movement are often painted unfairly with broad and negative strokes. As Anselmians, we have a responsibility to understand the many dimensions engendered when the sensitive topic of race in America is discussed, and we must approach discourse with open minds and hearts to better understand all aspects of our world, and all perspectives within our community.
At the same time, we must resist the temptation to be drawn into a false choice, where support for Black lives is seen as a lack of support for the police, or vice versa. Indeed, our Catholic tradition’s commitment to social justice helps us to understand the need to speak out about oppression. In the words of Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, CM, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, “…racism is America’s original sin. It continues to complicate all our attempts to create a truly human civil society. Those of us who accept the audacious task of leading faith-based education still have much work to do.”
Here at Saint Anselm College, we still have much work to do; however, we are fortunate to have the Anselmian Network for Racial Justice working on multiple channels to lead a civil discourse and community-wide action on this most important topic. We encourage each of you to have an open and honest conversation on the subject of systemic inequity, and to follow the guidance offered by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Love compels each of us to resist racism courageously.”
As Anselmians, we are called to humility and hospitality, compassion and community. In this moment of civil unrest, may we live these Benedictine values and recommit ourselves to seeing the world through the eyes of those who experience racial injustice and responding with action.
Saint Anselm College Launches Scholarship in Honor of Ernie Thorne ’34
Saint Anselm College is excited to announce the launch of the Ernie Thorne ’34 Scholarship Fund for Racial Equality. Ernie Thorne was the first Black graduate of Saint Anselm College and a lifelong resident of Manchester, N.H. This scholarship will provide financial aid and educational opportunities to underrepresented students from Manchester, southern New Hampshire, and California.
Anselmian Response on Racial Justice
Ande Diaz, Ph.D., Chief Diversity Officer and Director of the Office for Diversity & Inclusion
As Chief Diversity Officer, I want to share the work being done so that we as a community can respond to the recent spotlighting of racial disparities in health and law enforcement. Our guide being Dr. Favazza’s assertion that, “This year on campus, we will plan a series of events to assist us to listen, to take notice, to make the invisible visible, and to act. We all start at different points on the journey. But inattention and inaction are not options.”
As Anselmians we are committed to this ongoing work of responding to the call for racial justice with both empathy and action. We are stronger together and there is no better time than 2020!
Watch the Video
Dr. Ande Diaz talks about why racial justice is both personal and spiritual to her. Diaz offers ideas on how Anselmians can help and how the college will continue the work it started to advance an inclusive democracy.
A Noble Purpose
Joseph A. Favazza, Ph.D., President of Saint Anselm College
With a collective voice, Saint Anselm College repudiates the racism that ravages the dignity of human life. As a Catholic and Benedictine College, we are called to respond both with “empathy and action.” Empathy can overcome our blindness. Action creates a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community. As the U.S. Catholic Bishops expressed in a statement issued on May 29, 2020: “People of good conscience must never turn a blind eye when citizens are being deprived of their human dignity and even their lives. Indifference is not an option.”
As members of the Saint Anselm College community we are committed to this ongoing work of responding to the call for racial justice. This year on campus, we will plan a series of events to assist us to listen, to take notice, to make the invisible visible, and to act. We all start at different points on the journey. But inattention and inaction are not options. Anselmian teams are forming that will focus on racial justice in areas ranging from resources for learning, teaching, and parenting, curricular and co-curricular offerings or programming, and policy reviews. Anselmian actions from 2020 onward will be strengthened by ever-increasing awareness and empathy.
To ground our work and ensure systemic solutions, it is imperative that we, as learners, teachers, and global citizens, first turn our gaze inward and ask ourselves the questions that matter. How can today’s liberal arts education prepare students to think critically about human bias, power, and structural inequality in society? How might we better prepare future educators, health care providers, public officers, religious leaders, and other citizens to meet societal needs? How can each of us recognize the opportunities we have to be anti-racist in our day to day lives? How can we as life-long learners make a commitment to scrutinize our institutional policies and practices in our own institution and across the institutions of society?
The disease of systematic racism that has a 400-year history in our country is not undone by 40 years of civil rights progress. Our role as an institution of education demands our unflinching self-interrogation. Together, we will be ready to face the societal challenges of our times informed by our Catholic and Benedictine mission and identity and our core value of inclusiveness.