Open Letter to St. Louis CW

An invitation we must not refuse — in gratitude for the St. Louis CW

Dear Friends,

We write in the spirit of Peter Maurin’s admonition that part of our
duty is to announce, rather than denounce, whenever possible.

In a time when it feels like there is no shortage of things to
denounce, we, friends and members of Catholic Worker communities, want
to appreciate and give thanks to those organizing and participating in
the weekend of resistance in Ferguson, MO.

We understand this work to be an invitation to Catholic Workers to
draw upon our historical roots in the movement for racial justice and
re-imagine this work in today’s context.  Indeed, we feel like the
Catholic Worker Movement as a whole will benefit from the work,
knowledge, and challenges this weekend presents around what it means
to be an ally. We’re profoundly grateful for this work.  fasting_cup

The Catholic Worker movement is historically and presently a mostly
white movement. As such, we believe we must reflect on how our work
perpetuates racism and white supremacy.  At the same time, and out of
a deep desire for solidarity with, and personalism towards those who
have been most brutalized by racism, capitalism, and militarism – we
feel called to reflect on the ways we can work to dismantle those
structures of oppression.

In many ways, we have inherited a complicated system of domination.
Many communities have done work in the past to combat white supremacy,
but there is much more to be done. Thankfully, our collective history
gives us powerful examples to draw upon in the work for racial

In the early 1930‘s Dorothy Day gave front page prominence to an
article on the blatant racial injustice of the Scottsboro trial.
Beginning there, the history of the Catholic Worker engagement with
issues of race have reflected a need to pay closer attention, to act
more, and to challenge ourselves ever more radically.

In 1965, Dorothy accepted an invitation to travel Koinonia Farm, to a
community facing great violence due to racial tension.

worksofmercywarIn 1967, of another activist in Chicago who was beaten up after he
gave all that he had to a woman whose home was burned by her white
neighbors, she repeated his saying that, “We have not yet resisted the
evil of racism to the point of willingly giving our life’s blood.”

In each decade, and in all parts of this country, we are crushed by
accounts of racial violence and inspired by CW attempts to respond
authentically. But as Dorothy reminded us in her column in 1971, it is
hard to be complacent about gains made when there is so much more work
to be done.

Ours is and has been an anarchist movement.  At the same time we
uphold a deep sense of tradition, with our radicalism truly stemming
from returning to deep roots.  Both of those things call us to respect
and trust and sometimes follow our fellow comrades, believing that we
are all trying (and failing) and trying again to create this new world
in the shell of the old.

As we write, there is a community of folks in Ferguson who know that
Black lives matter and that state forces are at war with them, and
targeting them with violence that speaks to their lives being worth
less than others. Black youth are being incarcerated, shot by police
officers and being left on the street for all to see – history is
repeating itself: Slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, mass incarceration.

The community in Ferguson has organized and is responding not only to
individual acts of aggression and terror by the police, but an entire
system of rampant violence and abuse that they have been targets of
throughout their lives. They have not created or perpetuated this
system.  Their anger and aggression in light of it cannot and should
not be ignored or explained away.

We know that what is happening in Ferguson is both particular and yet
not unique.  Similar and equally brutal accounts happen in cities
across the US.  In response, communities of color are responding and
they are asking for folks to stand by them. ferguson_0_0

In keeping with the best of Catholic Worker tradition, the St. Louis
CW folks are responding to this invitation, and are in a position to
do that because they have been, and are devoted to developing
relationships with communities of color in St. Louis.

As we in the Catholic Worker Movement, and others across the world,
have watched the events unfold in Ferguson, we understand that a
community’s authentic response to decades of oppression and violence
can take on many forms.  These myriad responses —  whether they are
rallies, marches, flash mobs, or broken windows — have been a part of
every historical movement for equality and freedom.  Perhaps it is
most important that we hear the voices of those who have been so
systematically silenced.

The St. Louis CW community, with humility, patience and belief in
grace, is dedicated to better understanding what it means to be put
anti racist principles into action. They are listening to the voices
of those affected by the violence of white supremacy and letting that
guide how they respond.

The CW movement as a whole would benefit by prioritizing the voices of
those most affected by racism and other oppressions over our need for
nonviolence to be pure and up to standards that we set. In fact, the
idea that purity and perfection are even possible draws upon white
supremacist thinking itself.  They, and we, want to remember, that in
the same way that in serving the oppressed we are serving Christ, by
listening to the oppressed we are listening to Christ.

The St. Louis CW community has been an incredible voice in the
wilderness, prioritizing their role in stepping back, serving as
bodies during the demonstrations, and insisting that their purpose is
to offer support in whatever way possible.

Catholic Worker tradition places value on doing whatever needs to be
done and not competing for credit or leadership.  If a movement is
already being led by those most affected and they ask us to find
blankets instead of giving us the mic, we find blankets because we
know it’s important that people be warm at a protest.

We value all the work that needs to be done and the community that is
created by doing it.

With gratitude and hope,

Jerica Arents – Chicago, formerly White Rose CW
Marie Shebeck – Chicago, formerly White Rose CW
Amanda W. Daloisio – New York CW
Matthew W. Daloisio – New York CW extended community
Ellen Euclide – Chicago, formerly Pete’s Place CW
Chris Knestrick – Cleveland CW
Dan Wilson – Tucson, formerly Winona CW
Chantal de Alcuaz – Anchorage, formerly Su Casa CW

For more information check out: &  (Anti-racism resources
from the St. Louis CW)