Catholics should take an active role in being aware of and addressing racism, said a panel of four black members of the Franciscan University of Steubenville community, Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Gentile Gallery.
The panel — consisting of Matthew Breuninger, a who holds a doctorate in psychology, the Rev. Vaughn A. Foster Sr., a member of the university’s board of advisors, and students junior Mary Roach and senior Alanna Thibodeaux — discussed various topics surrounding their own personal experiences with racism, both on and off campus.
The main goal of the panel was to bring to light the importance of discussing racial topics, especially with afflicted members of the university community.
Breuninger started by saying these discussions hold importance.
“As I was thinking and praying about what to share,” said Breuninger, “I asked myself why am I doing this? And it seems to me it’s because St. Paul invites us to bear each other’s burdens. (We all) walk around with burdens, and hurts and wounds that others … aren’t aware of.”
Breuninger discussed his experiences around the country dealing with racism and the effects it has had on him.
Foster said about Breuninger’s segment, “He said something I have not heard anyone else say. We need to have heartfelt conversations and tell our story.”
Roach discussed “microaggressions,” going into what they are and how people can avoid bringing them up in discussions with minorities.
“I’ve never had any blatant racist experiences,” Roach said. “But what I have experienced has been … microaggressions.”
Roach went on to discuss how being adopted has affected her experience.
Thibodeaux followed up by discussing similar experiences in the context of the Catholic Church.
“Looking around my church, … (it’s) predominantly white,” noted Thibodeaux. “Why am I Catholic? I think the Catholic church is for white people.”
To end the panel, Foster, originally from New Jersey, discussed growing up in a black neighborhood surrounded by white neighborhoods.
“As long as you stay in your world,” Foster said. “You’re not gonna have a whole lot of problems.”
Students said they were touched by the discussion.
“I really liked the talk, … especially the testimonies,” said freshman Bryan Black. “They really put everything in perspective for me.”
The talk was hosted by the Black Student Association as part of the “Racism and the Role of the Church” series.