A time to rise above bitterness and division


At a family dinner celebrated before the Christmas holidays that my daughter and granddaughter attended, the topic of the recent presidential election crept up into the conversation. Shortly thereafter, one dinner guest inquired whether anyone had seen the petition to secede from the United States. At least one other guest acknowledged seeing it and both proudly admitted to signing the petition.

The “family” sitting around this dinner table included my daughter and granddaughter (who are African-American) and white friends who have become family to each other and other invited guests. My daughter, who has a diverse group of friends of various political leanings, was extremely hurt and offended by the discussion of secession.

From time to time the topic of secession is raised by various groups that are not pleased with the outcome of elections. However, because of the disturbing racial undertones surrounding the recent election, the talk of secession for many African-Americans triggers the painful past when our country was ripped apart by civil war and the abolition of slavery.

The post-election movement to secede, which now includes all 50 states, is the culmination of an election that was marked by extreme and bitter contentiousness and division. By targeting specific constituencies, the campaigns divided the country ethnically, socio-economically, and by gender and generation.

The day after the election, Pope Benedict XVI congratulated President Barack Obama on his reelection and stated that he would pray that the ideals of freedom and justice that guided America’s founders might continue to flourish. In spite of the significant chasm between the two on a number of issues, the pope reached out in the spirit of grace and good will to the president.

As a nation, we agree that there are enormous challenges we face. We do not all agree on how to solve them. However, in order to begin this work, we must heal and bring back civility and respect despite our ideological differences.

We see the best of what this country has to offer as evidenced in the Olympics. Where most countries have a group of athletes of the same racial or ethnic heritage, our country has athletes of all races whose common purpose is to come together and compete for the USA. This is a country where individuals of all races, ethnicities and religions come together in a historic moment to again inaugurate its first black president. And where, despite the comments from some that made for an uncomfortable evening, the descendants of Hannah Ethridge Carter, a slave from North Carolina, shared a meal with the descendants of Irish, Italian, German and Polish immigrants. Through prayer and by the grace of our loving God, we can rise above the bitterness and division. Our country’s strength and greatness comes from our love of God and our unity.

Corlis L. Sellers is the coordinator of the Racial Justice Commission of the Diocese of Camden.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The Racial Justice Commission of the Diocese of Camden

The Racial Justice Commission is comprised of members of the community (clergy and laity) who are committed to eradicating the sin of racism within the church and in society and to promoting harmony and understanding among all of God’s people. The Racial Justice Commission offers training to schools and parishes on cultural diversity and sponsors and supports activities that further the objectives of the Commission.

Kevin Hickey, Chair
Lawrence DiPaul, Vice Chair
Kevin Moran, Secretary
Corlis Sellers, Coordinator