By Deacon Robert Booth
My story begins in Chicago in May of 1958. Born to a young mother growing up was a challenge. I soon had other siblings and I was given the responsibility of helping with the other children.
My mom always believed that we should have the desire to serve others. As youths, our duties were to help the senior citizens of the parish and assist in other functions.
Being a child in the time of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I was able to see the injustice against black people because of the marchers. At the time, I did not know why they were marching. It was soon after Dr. King’s killing that I fully understood what was going on. We lived in a housing project, so we were insulated from outside agitations.
One of the things my mom did that was the best thing for us was to send us to Catholic school. The nice thing about Chicago is that it is a city of neighborhoods, and each has a Catholic church. So, there was an opportunity for people to come together of all races and creeds, linked by the Church. Since I had a heart to serve, the nuns of the parish suggested to me that I would be a good priest. They felt I had what it took to be a good servant.
What moves me to speak out on the issue of racial injustice is seeing so many people suffer needlessly. As a man of faith my thoughts and actions are aligned with Dr. King’s and to see people being treated less than human is unacceptable.
The older I get, the more I see the injustice. It begins power. People who suffer have no power and so they depend on people of goodwill to step up and say and do something. God expects us to see the actions of Dr. Martin Luther King and understand the virtues that moved him. We are responsible for each other and it is my responsibility as a man of faith to remind us all of the need to help each other to live the life God intends for us to live.
I can see the injustice living in California. The people of Mexico should be given extra consideration when coming here across the border. This was their land, and we should be more than generous toward them. Canadians can come across the border freely and there are no walls. How does one have a Christian nation and build walls to keep people out? How do we, as a nation of mixed-race and immigrant peoples, work to live harmoniously with the native people of this land?
It starts by being grateful and humble and realizing that we are always stronger together and not separate. I see Dr. King as a man that chose to follow the Beatitudes that say, “blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
So as a man of color, my heart goes out to anyone who may be suffering for no other reason than the color of their skin. They cannot help it, that is the way God made them. The sooner we Christians understand that, the sooner we can move on to educating the rest of the world and living Dr. King’s dream.
Deacon Robert Booth, who was ordained in 2009, serves at St. John the Evangelist Parish in San Diego.