Catholic Charities USA Calls for National Commitment to Address the Challenges of Race and Poverty
Released : Monday, January 21, 2008 11:00 AM
New Paper on Race and Poverty Released on Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
DETROIT, Jan. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Catholic Charities USA today marked Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day by calling for a renewed commitment to address the intertwined problems of racism and poverty that undermine America’s fundamental promise of liberty, economic security, and justice for all.
The call to action was made today during a holiday Mass at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit where Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, released a new paper on the issue: Poverty and Racism: Overlapping Threats to the Common Good.
“In order to adequately and seriously address poverty in this country, we must have a candid conversation and subsequent action that changes the impact race has on poverty,” Father Snyder said. “We realize that racism is an uncomfortable subject for many people, but we also believe that Catholic Charities must be willing not only to talk about racism, but to initiate and lead a conversation that is desperately needed if we are going to truly provide help and offer hope to those we serve.”
The paper intends to start, enrich, and inform a conversation within the Catholic Charities network and throughout the country by compelling every individual to serve, educate, and advocate for programs and policies that will foster unity in communities, eliminate racism, and significantly reduce poverty. The paper is part of Catholic Charities USA’s Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America, an effort which seeks to cut the U.S. poverty rate in half by 2020.
While whites make up the majority of the poor in the U.S., poverty rates are highest among minorities. U.S. Census figures show that in 2006, the overall national poverty rate was 12.3 percent, with the rate for African Americans at 24.3 percent, nearly three times higher than the 8.2 percent poverty rate for whites.
“Local Catholic Charities agencies across the country help nearly 8 million people a year,” said Fr. Snyder. “Every day, we see the faces of the poor across America, and we know firsthand how race and poverty are interconnected.”
Father Snyder acknowledged that great strides have been made in addressing racism in the United States, but emphasized that more can and must be done.
“Poverty is a moral and social wound on the soul of our nation, and the ghosts of our nation’s legacy of racial inequality continue to haunt us,” he said. “Racism fractures the unity of the human family, violates the rights of individuals, mocks the God-given equal dignity that everyone deserves, and is absolutely incompatible with our Christian faith and belief.”
The paper contends that racism entails more than conscious ill-will, more than deliberate acts of avoidance, exclusion, malice, and violence perpetrated by individuals. Racism also describes the reality of unearned advantage, conferred dominance, and invisible privilege enjoyed by white Americans, to the detriment, burden, and disadvantage of people of color. The paper states that this network of racially conferred advantages and benefits, which has been termed “white privilege,” also must be addressed.
Catholic Charities Seeks Change in Federal Programs
In addition to examining the reality and history of racial injustice in America, Poverty and Racism: Overlapping Threats to the Common Good also calls for a renewed commitment to racial equality as a national priority. It urges Congress and the Administration to strengthen laws that address poverty that is racially caused or aggravated. These include:
– Adoption of progressive affirmative action programs for education and employment;
– Passage of programs that promote quality educational opportunities for the poor;
– Making critically needed investments in public schools and in safety net programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and Medicare;
– Comprehensive immigration reform;
– Wide-ranging criminal justice reforms;
– Improved fair housing laws;
– Increased federal funding for affordable housing;
– Enactment of tougher laws to punish predatory lenders; and
– Adoption of measures that help the poor get access to low-cost Internet service.
“Our battles against poverty and racism will not be easy, and success will be measured in years, not days or months,” Father Snyder said. “It is my hope that our work can make a difference, even if it is just laying the foundation that others may build upon. We ask others to join us in our effort to fight racism and cut poverty in half so that together, we can make our country whole.”
The paper, Poverty and Racism: Overlapping Threats to the Common Good, can be found online at http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org.
Catholic Charities USA’s members — more than 1,700 local agencies and institutions nationwide — provide help and create hope for more than 7.8 million people a year regardless of religious, social, or economic background. For more than 275 years, local Catholic Charities agencies have been providing a myriad of vital services in their communities, ranging from day care and counseling to food and housing. For more information, visit http://www.catholiccharitiesinfo.org.
SOURCE Catholic Charities USA
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Filed under: Caritas, Catholic Charities USA