“As long as I was formally dressed, I’m treated with great respect and affection. But if I take off my clerics to go out, to go shopping or run an errand, I’m in the pool of every other African American man in Washington.”
From the TODAY show, a remarkable interview with Al Roker:
Cardinal Wilton Gregory, 73, who oversees the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., discussed his experiences with racism with Al Roker as part of TODAY’s “Changemakers” series and in honor of Black History Month. Asked whether he’s dealt with racism during his journey through the priesthood, Gregory answered, “Oh, sure.”
“I don’t know of any African American who hasn’t tasted the bitter cup of discrimination,” he explained. “Now as long as I was formally dressed, I’m treated with great respect and affection. But if I take off my clerics to go out, to go shopping or run an errand, I’m in the pool of every other African American man in Washington.”
Gregory went on to recall a time he was treated poorly when he wasn’t dressed like a clergyman.
“Maybe 15 or so years ago, I was being hosted at a very exquisite Palm Springs golf club,” he told Al. “So I was there, dressed to play golf, and another individual — I opened the trunk — he said, ‘You can put my clubs on the golf cart.’ And I had to say, ‘Well, I can have somebody retrieve your clubs, but I’m here to play golf.’ I never forgot that.
“But it’s good for me to remember that,” Gregory added. “It’s good for me not to lose a grounding in the experience of what it means to be an African American man in our country.”
While many Catholics may be surprised that there were no Black American cardinals before 2020, Gregory understands the reason.
“When a moment occurs like this, the reaction of a lot of people is, ‘Why did it take so long?'” he told Al. “Well, it took so long because we’re still grappling with racism and with exclusion. That’s still a part of the world in which we live.”
Gregory sees ongoing racial unrest as “a reminder that in spite of all that we’ve been able to accomplish, the issue is still there,” calling it “sobering.”
Read more and watch the interview at this link.