By SAMANTHA SMITH, firstname.lastname@example.org | Published June 4, 2020
For the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday this year, I went to see “Just Mercy,” a story about Bryan Stevenson, founder of Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to those who are illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced or abused in prisons.
In the film, Michael B. Jordan, who plays Stevenson, says: “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. It’s never too late for justice. We all need grace. We all need mercy.”
What makes the film so special to me is its pro-life essence. Society would have you believe that being pro-life is just about being against abortion, but there is so much more to its definition.
A pro-life person believes in the dignity and sanctity of all human life from “the womb to the tomb.” Yes, being pro-life means that you advocate against abortion. But it also means you don’t support the death penalty, believe in everyone’s right to vote and stand in solidarity with people who are marginalized in our world.
Standing up against the sin of racism is a pro-life issue. The roots of racism run deep in our country, and it takes all of us to fight against it. It’s important for not just black people, but all people to speak up on this injustice in our society.
During his livestream general audience on June 3, Pope Francis stated: “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”
Being pro-life is not about valuing one stage of life over another, but valuing the life of every person and seeing God in all of us, no matter our race, age, background or sexual preference. It’s who we are as Catholics.
The recent protests across the United States and around the world have filled our social media and television screens, forcing us to stop and see a race of people who have been dismissed and ignored in society. It’s unfortunate that drastic measures such as looting, rioting and damaging property have forced us to pay attention. But how long has society ignored the cries of this community? How long have black people been fighting for equality in our country?
Racism is hurtful, heavy and overwhelming. It makes us uncomfortable, as it should. Racism is difficult to deal with and there is no easy solution. And it continues to show its presence in our government, schools, with colleagues and even in our own homes and families.
The pain of racism has existed in the United States for centuries. And even though we have made great strides and efforts to overcome it, the riots and protests in our communities prove there is more work to be done.
You may be asking yourself: “How can I help to defeat racism?” That is a complex question. But an easy first step is to remind yourself what it means to be pro-life.
Do you see God in people of color you encounter, whether a friend, colleague or out in public? If you do, have you asked them how they are feeling and about their experiences? Have you taken the time to understand their perspective with an open and honest heart? Have you asked how you can be helpful in the fight against the injustice of racism?
You may not have the power to change every facet of life that racism touches, but God calls us to see him in others–to recognize the dignity of every human life. And if you can start there, you may be surprised at how that act of kindness and humility makes an impact.
Editor’s Note: This blog piece is a commentary by Samantha Smith, staff writer for The Georgia Bulletin. Read more about Pope Francis’ message on racism during his June 3 general audience.