Gonzaga University Department of Religious Studies Faculty Statement against Systemic Racism

In recent weeks, the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and David McAtee, without regard for the God-given human dignity and inherent value of Black life are visceral reminders that racial injustice not only has shaped but also continues to shape the ways we live and work in this country. This is part of the larger American problem of systemic racism, which, along with colonialism, has led to disparate experiences of harm in the current coronavirus pandemic. As we are confronted with these violent realities, we condemn anti-black racism and white supremacy in all forms. As a department, we commit ourselves to solidarity with our students and fellow community members of color, especially those who are Black, Latino/a/x, and Indigenous.

We acknowledge that statements and social-media outrage on their own are inadequate and often only performative. We recognize that words of commitment must manifest in action, and that such action must extend beyond an immediate response to a moment of trauma followed by protest. As the American Academy of Religion wrote, “The time for the wringing of hands is over.” To this end, we are forming a Department Working Group on Anti-Racism. This working group will be tasked with spearheading our department’s anti-racist engagement at Gonzaga University and proposing what substantive and ongoing work we must do in the face all forms of racism and white supremacy. We also commit ourselves as a department to a regular practice of discernment as we confront our own complicity in systems of injustice.

We are also gravely disturbed by police violence in response to constitutionally protected protests asserting the dignity and value of black lives. As we look to our own local Spokane community, we condemn the upcoming police training seminar, “Killology,” hosted by Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich. It is intended to train local officers in a warrior mentality that reduces our community to a “battle zone” and our fellow community members to the “enemy.” Such a seminar is an affront to the dignity of human persons and the common good we are called to serve, and it poses a particular danger to the constitutional rights and lives of persons and communities of color, including our students.

As we engage our local and national communities with action for change, so too we encourage fellow members of the Gonzaga community to turn to engage their own communities as well.

Many are currently looking for resources to contextualize the role of racism and white supremacy in the U.S. and to understand what kinds of social and cultural transformation must be realized to affirm the dignity and value of black life.

To support such work, we offer these resources from our own disciplines of Religious Studies and Theology:

  • Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God by Kelly Brown Douglas.
  • The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James H. Cone
  • African American Religions, 1500–2000: Colonialism, Democracy, and Freedom by Sylvester Johnson
  • Racial Justice and the Catholic Church by Bryan N. Massingale
  • White Christian Privilege: The Illusion of Religious Equality in America by Khyati Y. Joshi
  • Knowing Christ Crucified by M. Shawn Copeland
  • Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK's Appeal to Protestant America, 1915–1930 by Kelly J. Baker
  • Taking Down Our Harps: Black Catholics in the United States by Diana L. Hayes and Cyprian Davis
  • The Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism, and Religious Diversity in America by Jeannine Hill Fletcher
  • The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by Willie James Jennings
  • A Puerto Rican Decolonial Theology: Prophesy Freedom by Teresa Delgado
  • American Indian Liberation: A Theology of Sovereignty by George Tinker
  • Caminemos con Jesús: Toward a Hispanic/Latino Theology of Accompaniment by Roberto Goizueta
  • Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by angel Kyodo Williams, Rod Owens, and Jasmine Syedullah
  • Disciplined by Race: Theological Ethics and the Problem of Asian American Identity by Ki Joo Choi
  • How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America by Karen Brodkin
  • Black in America: I am tired” by Joseph A. Brown, SJ.
  • The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it” by Bryan N. Massingale

We also offer past Flannery Lectures in Catholic Theology:

We also suggest the following films and podcasts:

Black Lives Matter.