BRIDGEPORT—“Hopefully today is just another opportunity to grow together and have more effective action through conversation,” said Armando Cervantes, the fourth presenter in the webinar series of Conversations About Race hosted by The Leadership Institute, the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and the Apostolate for Black Catholics.
Armando’s conversation was titled “Beyond Black: Multicultural Voices.” “Why is going beyond important?” Cervantes posed the question. “Because when we don’t go beyond we are complicit in continuing a way of thinking, a systemic racist model of continuing to not talk about it, engage in it and discuss it.”
Cervantes explained the feeling of “battle fatigue” from having to continually fight against racism. “In some ways I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of having to talk about this issue,” he said. “But I am happy that you are here and willing to go beyond with me. Hopefully today we can acquire new strategies to deal with old issues and maybe unlearn a little bit of what we have learned.”
The speaker encouraged listeners to have the courage to go beyond fear and safety, take responsibility for the issues one may have, and to recognize one’s feelings, limitations, frustrations, responses, intentions and desires.
Learning from multicultural voices
Cervantes discussed the USCCB’s letter “Open Wide Our Hearts.” The letter explains that what is needed is a genuine conversion of heart—a conversion that will compel change and reform of our institutions and societies, and how Catholics and all people of good will are called to combat racism.
The bishops explain that our call is to listen and know the stories of our brothers and sisters. “We must create opportunities to hear, with open hearts, the tragic stories that are deeply imprinted on the lives of our brothers and sisters, if we are to be moved to empathy to promote justice,” the bishops write.
Beyond Listening: Loving Multicultural Voices
“God is calling me not only to listen and learn, He is asking me to love, to show genuine and authentic love to our brothers and sisters right in front of us—especially the marginalized and those on the peripheries, because those are the ones who Jesus in the Gospels would have gone after,” said Cervantes.
Cervantes discussed the USCCB document “Building Intercultural Competence for Ministers.” The document urges us to seek intentionally a cultural understanding, to develop intercultural communication skills, to expand knowledge of obstacles that impede intercultural relations and to foster ecclesial integration rather than assimilation in church settings.
Cervantes explained that people are biased because of one of these three things: fear, ignorance or guilt. These are obstacles in really getting to know and love the other. “You need to be aware of these feeling and wish to get over these barriers in order to connect with someone else,” advised Cervantes.
Anti-Racism is the goal
“I challenge you, and I challenge myself, to get to the point of not just denying racism as a problem but promoting and advocating for anti-racism on a regular basis,” Cervantes said.
“When we are willing to be comfortable in the uncomfortable then we are able to be pushed beyond that fear to be able to understand and to get to the point of loving something that is different from me,” Cervantes explained that this is the invitation we all have.
Beyond Knowing: Living with Multicultural Voices
Cervantes urged listeners to address what biases one may have, what access one has that others don’t, if one is truly an ally to the BIPOC community and their stories, and if one is complicit in institutional forms of racism.
“We all have it in some capacity,” Cervantes said of these biases. “We all have been taught stereotypes. How do you and I fight against them and how do you and I break them by getting to know someone else?”
Cervantes explained that if one doesn’t know something about a particular community, it is their obligation to learn in order to break that stereotype. He urged that this can be done through sharing stories.
“The hope of today is to invite us to be thinking about our multicultural brothers and sisters,” said Cervantes. “More than ever we need these conversations. We need everyone to jump in, we’re not going to attack this problem in one day and in one moment. It is going to come from us doing it together.”
Cervantes encouraged listeners to walk together…to listen, learn and share with those who are different than us.
“The Emmaus story in Luke 24:13-35, that is Jesus Himself giving us the example of walking with someone, of radical, active listening, of sharing,” said Cervantes. “That is the invitation for you and I.”
Armando brings over two decades of parish, diocesan, regional, national and international experience and leadership. Armando graduated from UC Irvine with a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences with an Emphasis in Public and Community Service. After receiving his master’s in Pastoral Theology from Loyola Marymount University, Armando received his Executive MBA from Chapman University. Armando was one of the co-masters of ceremony for Region 11’s Regional Encuentro and the National Encuentro in Grapevine, Texas.
(To register to join the “Conversation on Race,” visit the Leadership Institute: www.formationreimagined.org. Click to view all of the resources and information about joining the conversation: www.formationreimagined.org/conversations-about-race-main.)