Thursday, September 9, 2010

How far we've come, how far we've to go...

St. Peter Claver (1581-1684)
In yesterday's news, it was announced that Jefferson Thomas, one of the nine students who integrated Little Rock High School in 1957 at the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement, died. He is the first of the so-called "Little Rock Nine" to pass away - an important milestone which emphasizes the fact that, as a society, we are now moving beyond the generation who lived and struggled through the difficult years of the battle for Civil Rights and equality in our country. Quite often, those of us who hail from the "younger" generations of southerners, tend to find it hard to fathom a time when people were actually and actively treated differently on account of the color of their skin. Despite a clinging reputation of racial woes that the southern U.S. retains on the consciousness of many who hail from outside her borders, most younger southerners earnestly believe that they have "moved beyond" racial bias in our personal lives and actions.

Here at Ole Miss, we seem to be particularly sensitive (and for good reason) to race relations and matters of equality. After all, our campus was the epicenter for an important mark in the Movement. Exactly how far we have come in this regard is a debate for another day, but for Catholics, Mr. Thomas' death just happens to fall within the same week as another day devoted to one who broke down racial barriers. Today, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Peter Claver, a man who tirelessly and selflessly bucked the social mores of his time (the 17th century) in order to minister to African slaves in South America, recognizing their humanity and serving them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Take a moment today to thank God for the advances that we've made in racial reconciliation and justice and pray for perfection in this area. How far have we come? Lord only knows. How far do we have yet to go? Again, God knows. But, most importanly, only he can lead us to perfection. "Miserere nobis..."