Event initiates tough conversation

A panel of Xavier students unpacked the intersection of faith and racial justice

Last Thursday, Xavier was joined by Faith in Public Life to have a conversation about racial justice at Xavier and beyond. Above, Dr. Marcus Mescher addresses the audience, commenting on the importance of this dialogue.

As part of a tour of Faith in Public Life, a panel of Xavier students spoke about the intersection between faith and racial justice and how their Xavier experiences have been shaped by these disciplines.

The event was co-sponsored by several organizations on and off campus, including the Division of Student Affairs, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, the Center for Faith and Justice, the theology department and the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

Marcus Mescher, a professor in the theology department, also played a significant role in organizing the event.

“As a product of fourteen years of Jesuit education, I’ve learned about my own privilege as a White American male and how much I benefit from racism, especially as a system of oppression,” Mescher said. “So, I really planned this event out of gratitude to my own Jesuit heritage, as well as out of a commitment to our Jesuit identity and mission here at Xavier.”

At the event, Father Michael Graham, president, gave the opening remarks followed by a panel which spoke on their experiences with racism as well as potential solutions to the issues. The panel consisted of senior marketing and business analytics double major Blair McKee, junior criminal justice major Cameron Lakes, senior Spanish secondary education major Nathalie Solorio, senior chemical science major Anjali Nelson and senior occupational therapy major Molly Onders.

The event was moderated by John Gehring, the Catholic Program Director at Faith in Public Life, based in Washington, D.C.

“Policy doesn’t change without changing minds and hearts, and stories and narratives really matter,” Gehring said. “Our hope at Faith in Public Life, by lifting up the voices of student advocates, is that we will reach voters, lawmakers and even reach individuals who we hope will think more critically about these issues.”

Faith and Public Life is a national movement led by 50,000 clergy and faith leaders united in the prophetic pursuit of justice, equality and the common good. The group’s stop at Xavier was a part of their Catholic University speaking tour.

The students who attended thoroughly enjoyed the different perspectives offered by the panel.

“I liked that they included a lot of different voices,” senior Philosophy, Politics and the Public and gender and diversity studies double major Riley Head said. “Someone said at the beginning of the panel that race is often viewed as a black and white issue, but here, multiple different voices from different backgrounds got to chime in.”

“This was a very necessary discussion to be having, and it was important to have people here to listen in to all the different perspectives that were offered,” Onders said as a panelist. “For me, being willing to engage in this conversation was the biggest thing, yet also recognizing that I don’t know all the answers and I’m not going to know all the answers.”

Mescher believes that as a Xavier community we still have a long way to go to promote racial justice, but hosting events like these is an important first step.

“From here, we have to keep pushing ourselves to put ourselves into uncomfortable positions, we have to not be afraid to disagree and we have to show up for each other,” Mescher said.

“As we wrap up this event and turn our eyes toward the future, I hope that this was just one event on campus that can be a part of many more dialogues that ultimately lead us to more inclusive relationships.”