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June 5, 2020

Racism in Our Streets and Structures

A Test of Faith, A Crisis for Our Nation

Young people at a candlelight vigil in memory of George Floyd in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

We have watched a police officer kneel on the neck of a black man on a street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, destroying a life and igniting protests across the United States. We have seen a young black man gunned down on a street in Glynn County, Georgia. We have seen a young woman shot by police officers in her own home in Louisville, Kentucky. We know the names of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. We also recall the names and images of too many other African-Americans who were killed in similar horrors, and we know that there are many, many more whose names will never be known.

Our nation is in pain and in crisis, with angry, peaceful protesters demanding justice; with some lawless attacks on places and people; and with leaders who are failing us. At the same time, a deadly COVID-19 pandemic that touches all of us has exposed pervasive injustices which leave people and communities of color far more likely to suffer and die, lose work and wages, and risk their health and lives in essential jobs.

For Catholics and all believers, racism is more than a moral and national failure; it is a sin and a test of faith. Racism is America’s original sin, enduring legacy, and current crisis. Racist attitudes and actions, along with white supremacy and privilege, destroy the lives and diminish the dignity of African-Americans and so many other Americans. Racism also threatens the humanity of all of us and the common good. Racism divides us, reveals our lack of moral integrity, limits our capacity to act together, denies the talents and contributions of so many, and convicts us of violating the religious principles and the national values we proclaim. At this Public Dialogue four African-Americans—an archbishop, an academic leader, a pro-life advocate, and an anti-poverty leader—helped us understand and act in response to this crisis.

Racism in Our Streets and Structures Video Player

Showing the Racism in Our Streets and Structures Video

"We must examine our own attitudes and actions in order to seek conversion from sin and turn our hearts towards Christ in order to end personal and structural racism…. This moment calls us to be the Church of hope that Jesus Christ created us to be in a world full of pain and despair."

—Archbishop Wilton Gregory, May 31, 2020


  • Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Washington is the only African-American archbishop in the United States and is a past president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • Dr. Marcia Chatelain is a provost's distinguished associate professor of history and African-American studies and served as a member of the Working Group on Slavery, Memory, and Reconciliation at Georgetown University. She is author of South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration (2015) and organizer of the #FergusonSyllabus.
  • Ralph McCloud is the director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the U.S. bishops’ anti-poverty program. He has also served as the president of the National Association of Black Catholic Administrators and served four terms on the Fort Worth City Council and three terms as mayor pro tempore.
  • Gloria Purvis is a host of the EWTN radio show Morning Glory. She is also a board member for the Northwest Pregnancy Center, a member of the National Black Catholic Congress’ Leadership Commission on Social Justice, and chairperson for Black Catholics United for Life.

John Carr, director of the Initiative, moderated the conversation.





Videos and Podcasts, and Other Resources

Photo by Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle


July 1, 2020
Paying the price for anti-racism work
National Catholic Reporter

June 30, 2020
For black Catholics, fighting racism means putting faith in action

June 16, 2020
Black Catholic Leaders Respond to the George Floyd Video

June 9, 2020
Necessary Bluntness: Archbishop Gregory’s Stand for Integrity

June 8, 2020
Responding to the call to combat racism
Our Sunday Visitor

June 8, 2020
On ‘virus’ of racism, panelists praise protesters demanding justice
Catholic News Service

June 8, 2020
Archbishop Gregory and other panelists discuss the ‘virus’ of racism and praise protesters marching for justice
Catholic Standard

June 6, 2020
In Floyd saga, for once Americans aren’t wrong: The Pope is talking about us

June 6, 2020
DC archbishop doubles down on criticism of Trump shrine visit

June 5, 2020
Archbishop Wilton Gregory on racism: significant moment for real national transition
National Catholic Reporter

June 5, 2020
Cardinal Turkson: Racism driving some Catholics from Church
Catholic News Agency

June 5, 2020
Archbishop Gregory and other panelists discuss the ‘virus’ of racism and how protesters are marching for justice
Catholic Standard

June 5, 2020
Wilton Gregory on Georgetown panel talks racism and police brutality after George Floyd killing

June 5, 2020
Wilton Gregory, America’s only black Catholic archbishop, goes from diplomat to detractor in the wake of George Floyd’s death
Washington Post

June 5, 2020
DC Archbishop Gregory Discusses Racism & Faith at Georgetown University

June 5, 2020
Archbishop Gregory to participate in June 5 panel discussion on racism
Catholic Standard