Sr. Marie Lucey Addresses White Privilege During EAD Opening Session

FAN’s Director of Advocacy and Member Relations, Sr. Marie Lucey was asked to be a part of the welcome ceremony at this year’s Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) on April 15th. Her welcome speech is reproduced here for reference.

Marie at EAD2016

“I’m very humbled by being on the stage with John McCullough and William Barber—in fact by being here at all! You may be wondering, “What is the older white woman doing up there to welcome us to a gathering with a focus on racism?” Actually, I wonder myself! I think that the planning team wanted a woman and a Catholic. But the only way I can be authentic in addressing racism is to acknowledge my position of white privilege in this society.

As one of the oldest persons in the room, I remember that when I went to the movies as a child, the black kids from the other side of town sat in the balcony and we white kids sat in the main theater. The separation was wrong and I did nothing to object even if I wondered why. In my small Catholic girls’ high school there was one black girl; my women’s college was mostly white.

After I became a Sister of St. Francis—a predominantly white community—my first teaching assignment was to a small town in North Carolina where a small Catholic elementary school was just opening. No one in the town, black or white, had ever seen a nun (I was in full habit then), so we were the town’s main attraction that year. The pastor was very nervous because the school was to be integrated. In the enrollment of only 50 students (yes, total enrollment), there were two black kids, brother and sister. A few days before school opened, I was in the convent when a knock came on the door. It was a black mother who wanted to enroll her small son. I assumed, yes, of course, and went to the chapel where the pastor was on a ladder fixing something. He told me to tell this mother that enrollment was closed. I protested, but he insisted and he was the pastor, so with a heavy heart I did as I was told. I knew by the look on the woman’s face she could tell I was lying. I ran over to the church where the two older sisters were working and broke out in tears. That was probably the first time I was really awake to racism and white privilege.

I’m grateful for other experiences that I’ve had through the years to heighten that awareness and lead me to act on it. Today I live in a predominantly black neighborhood with a growing number of Latino families. It’s a great neighborhood, and I am grateful for my next door neighbors who are very good to me. But I don’t know what it is like to walk in their shoes and never will. I have never had cops pull me over because of my color, or have people look at me with surprise because I’m smart or highly educated or hard working; and if I were a mother and grandmother I would not have to worry every time my son or grandson went off to a party or game that he would be shot. I have enjoyed white privilege all my life, even when I didn’t realize it. Now, in this time, and during these Ecumenical Advocacy Days, I must listen and learn, as do those of you who, like me, experience white privilege. It is great to be here, black, brown and white, to be with each other, to share with each other, and to act together especially on Monday, when we visit members of Congress. Welcome to EAD 2016. Let’s lift our voices in song and cries for justice—together!”

-Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

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Published in: on April 20, 2016 at 5:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

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