Scranton does not want Prejudice in our Community
Welcoming community no place for prejudice
BY REV. Richard G. Malloy, S.J. (GUEST COLUMNIST) Published: October 2, 2011
MALLOY The Rev. Richard G. Malloy, S.J., Ph.D., is vice president of university ministries at the University of Scranton. He is the author of "A Faith That Frees."
After a late Sunday night flight from Chicago after a weekend wedding I was standing on the ramp waiting for a carry-on bag. A guy in a baseball cap and flannel shirt tells me he's from a state in the deep South. He's up here working the natural gas jobs.
He asks, "Where you from?"
"I've been in Scranton about a year, but I'm from Philly," I answer.
He says, "So, how's those flash mobs?"
"Bad news," I reply.
Then he looks at me and says, "You know, you never see a white flash mob," accompanied by a white-guy-to-white-guy-look" that some white guys don't realize other white guys don't appreciate.
"Really," I say. "This morning I saw some pretty horrific white guy BS on TV, white people beating the hell out of one another at stadiums in Baltimore and Oakland. It's not color that matters, Dude. It's stupidity."
He didn't seem to appreciate my sentiments.
Too many good ole boys don't get it. The USA is changing. We are more diverse. Those who actively oppose or resent and don't accept diversity are harming not only themselves, but the communities in which they work and live.
If people of color get the message that Northeast Pennsylvania is not a welcoming place, in a generation, only old, white people will be living here with no one to continue our communities.
There are almost 309 million people in the USA. Only some 197 million (63.7 percent) are "white, non-Hispanic." About 38.9 million (12.6 percent) are African-American and another 50 million (16.3 percent) are Latinos (U.S. Census 2010). By the time I'm an old man, 2042, the USA will become a nation in which no one group makes up 50 percent of the population (Perez and Hirschman 2009).
In a year here in NEPA, I've met many great people, folks who are friendly and welcoming, people who work hard to make a good world for their family and neighbors. Most would love to see their children and grandchildren settle and thrive in the Lackawana Valley.
I hope that people whose skin tone is darker than mine experience what I've experienced here. But I know my African-American and Latino friends have questions I don't entertain when I travel outside our big cities.
A few years ago, I was at a Jesuit retreat center near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border. For years, folks from our parishes in place like Philadelphia, Camden, N.J., and Baltimore have visited the center. Over the years, I'd heard of some of the local good ole boys who keep a flavor of the Klan in the air. They are not appreciative of what they call "mud people" invading "their" territory.
One Saturday afternoon, the family retreat schedule called for free time when we could just kick back and relax. Three Latino guys came over and asked if they could go into nearby Waynesboro, get a beer, and catch some of the Phillies game on TV. I told them they'd better ask their wives if they could go, but I didn't see how it would disrupt things. They looked at me and then at one another, with glances that communicated, "He's not really getting it."
"Yo, Padre Rick, we need to know if it's OK for 'us,' you know, guys who look like us, to go into that local bar."
It hit me again. The blindness of white privilege. I never think twice about where I go, or what I do when there. No one is going to look at me askance because I'm "white" or "Irish." But my three Puerto Rican friends, U.S. citizens, as are all Puerto Ricans, had to wonder and worry if their entering a public establishment in the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania would be a problem.
We "white guys" have to speak up to other "white guys" and let them know our future depends on building communities wherein people who don't look like "us" feel welcomed and appreciated.
Anyone coming here to NEPA to take our gas should know we don't appreciate anyone bringing outdated and destructive attitudes and ideas of racial privilege to our valley.
God made the magical Pocono mountains for all peoples. The Catholic Church teaches that racism is a sin. We need to root out of our minds, hearts and souls any remnants of prejudice and discrimination lodged there by all too recent societal dynamics.
I was born in 1955 into a USA in which segregation was legal, lethal and largely unquestioned. By the time I was 10 years old, the entire country had changed for the better as a result of the courageous work and sacrifice of those in the Civil Rights movement.
Here we are, some 50 years later. Let's not allow a resurgence in hateful and idiotic prejudice to reassert its ugly and stupid presence among us or our children.