Students rolled into the atrium of the JC Williams Center at 9 p.m.Tuesday for the “When Grace Meets Race” talk, the first of Franciscan University of Steubenville’s six-day “Racism and the Role of the Church” series.
“Racism existed before race. Race was the structure — the apologetic — to try to understand and to justify the reality of racism,” said Damon Owens, international speaker and founder of joytob.org, who focused on how the Church should respond to present-day racism.
Owens said race was a theory that man came up with to justify superiority of himself over another.
He then said the racism of today is not the same as it was in the past. Owens explained he was always told he had to be twice as good and that he had two strikes against him because he was the only African American in his school.
“(That) doesn’t even resonate with my own kids. … The situation has changed dramatically. This is not universal,” Owens said. “Their experience of race is different than mine, but it’s real.”
He said there was a danger in saying there was “one human race.”
“That’s like colorblind. I don’t want you to not see my color. That’s part of who I am and I’m proud of that,” he said.
Owens said, “I think the call is to acknowledge the radical equality of both people but (also) … of the unique and unrepeatable ways God created the human person.”
Owens said people need to listen to one another to learn and try to understand each other’s experiences so as not to make presumptions.
“The answer is not drilling down this behavior,” he said. “Treat it like any trauma that you’ll learn (by living) with people that you love.”
He said that the faithful peoples’ discipleship should be driven by mercy that fulfills justice.
“But when we speak about mercy, we’re willing to engage ourselves and we’re willing to engage others that would never be engaged just by justice,” he said.
“The racism of 2020 is moved well beyond public policy and law. It’s now to the person,” he said.
Senior Victoria Hamilton said, “I kind of had an intuitive sense of (racism coming before race) but just how he explained (it) and understanding the equality that we have with one another yet our unique differences — I think (that) was really surprising to hear but really eye-opening.”