By Aisha S. Taylor
Many Catholic Church reform organizations struggle with the fact that our membership and leadership have been predominantly white for most of our histories. As a member of Call to Action’s (CTA) Anti-Racism Team and a staff member of the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC), I have participated in many dialogues about racism at team trainings and Board meetings. I am proud to play a role in the initiatives of both CTA and WOC to develop and implement strategies to dismantle racism in each organization and the entire church reform movement.
As I prepared for the CTA anti-racism trainings in September 2005, I began to think about how I could apply these insights and skills to my work for women’s ordination. From experiences and trainings in college and work settings, I have learned that dismantling racism requires a difficult process of self-examination. As one member of the Anti-Racism Team said of CTA’s organizational leadership, “We put ourselves on a pedestal, thinking we were ‘enlightened.’ As we examined ourselves, we saw how we are caught in the web of racism, and instead of changing it, we are unintentionally replicating it.” Another stated, “We cannot change anything until we discover and rid ourselves of the racism within us. If we don’t, we will continue to perpetuate (racism) in our structures and institutions.”
As we work to dismantle systems of oppression in the Church, we must simultaneously address the sexism, racism, heterosexism, ageism, colonialism, and imperialism within ourselves and our organizations in order to create a community that is inclusive, welcoming, and spiritually fulfilling to all people. Our liberation, equality, and freedom are inextricably linked with that of all God’s creation.
Through trainings and conversations with WOC leaders, especially Carmen Lane, it became clear that anti-racism work is work for women’s ordination. Dismantling racism is directly connected to dismantling sexism, and it must not be relegated to one aspect of our efforts. It needs to permeate every program, every ministry and every part of our vision. Until we examine and eliminate the racism in us—individually, collectively, and institutionally—we cannot achieve our vision of creating a renewed priesthood. In other words, we cannot simply “add women and stir.”
We need to “lean into the discomfort” of doing anti-racism work. To be effective in this process, we need each other, sisters and brothers of all races and ethnicities, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges that lie before us. Each of us presents a different face of God that, when joined together, creates a healthy, united body of Christ. We need to create a Church that fully employs all our gifts, including those of women of color, married women, lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and all women who are marginalized.
My hope for the Church renewal movement is that we confront the issue of racism in the Church and in our organizations. It is never easy to scrutinize ourselves and see how we perpetuate racism. My hope for the Women’s Ordination Conference is that we implement the valuable and practical tools acquired through the anti-racism trainings, so we reflect all of the faces of God as we move toward a continually renewing priesthood, one that is free of sexism, racism and all oppression and domination.
Aisha S. Taylor, a NETWORK Board member, is the Executive Director of Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC) based in Washington, D.C. WOC is the world’s oldest and largest national organization working solely for women to be priests, deacons and bishops in a renewed Catholic Church. An adapted version of this article was printed in the July/August 2006 issue of NETWORK Connection.