Jeannine Hill Fletcher presented a lecture at Creighton on Oct. 1 titled “Complicity and Resistance: The Female Face of Racial (In)Justice.”
This free public lecture in the Harper Center Ballroom was a part of the Women and Religion annual lecture series, which is cosponsored by the Women and Gender Studies program and the Kripke Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Creighton.
Opening remarks for the event were provided Susan Calef, assistant professor of theology and faculty associate of the Kripke Center.
This annual lecture features the voices of women scholars and their thoughts on women’s experience of religion, as well as the impact of religion on women’s lives.
“The focus of [this year’s lecture] involves the intersection of race, gender and religion. The choice of that focus is a response to our university president, Fr. Daniel Hendrickson’s call to attend in our discourse and activities in teaching, to raise some racial injustice [awareness],” Calef said.
Calef said that this is indeed currently happening at the university, through the College of Arts and Sciences course offerings, reading groups and events organized by the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the Office of the Vice Provost for institutional diversity and inclusion and the Kingfisher Institute.
Fletcher is a Fordham University professor of systematic theology. She teaches the intersection of systematic theology and issues of diversity: religious diversity, Christian cultural diversity, race and gender.
In both her teaching and research, Fletcher explores the role of theological thinking in shaping public discourse.
Her most recent work, including her 2017 book, “The Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism, and Religious Diversity in America,” focuses on how white Christian theology can be oriented toward antiracist projects for the thriving of diversity in the context of the United States. Calef read Fletcher’s book over the summer.
“I can attest to the insight, the challenge and the hope that [Fletcher’s] work can afford us in the midst of the current challenges that we face in an increasingly diverse nation,” Calef said.
In her presentation, Fletcher recognized women as a source of resistance to white supremacy and racial injustice throughout every era since the arrival of Christians to the land Americans currently inhabit.
“Racism and racial injustice are everywhere in this country. Racism is not just the problem of people of color and a few white supremacists. It’s our problem collectively as a nation, collectively as a human family,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher acknowledged that racism is a structural reality, as well.
“[Racism] is built into the very fabric of our society. It’s all around us: in the segregation of our schools, in the geography of our neighborhoods. It destroys our bodies, as well as our souls, when some of us enjoy access to cleaner water, healthier food, and less polluted air, correlative to the color of our skin,” Fletcher said.
She emphasized that the institutional reality of racial injustice is not the responsibility of lawmakers alone. Fletcher said that the responsibility also falls with the millions of people who have lived on this continent and, in their actions, have created or resisted a society of white supremacy.
“Easily half of those actors in the drama of America’s white supremacy have inhabited the subject position of women. Imagining them, and their millions of everyday decisions, we might begin to conceive of the female face of racial injustice,” Fletcher said.
In recognizing the ways in which women are historically responsible for the creation of white institutions, Fletcher says that one might also see the female face of resistance to white systems of oppression in this investigation.
“We might consider the places where women’s socially assigned roles make them gatekeepers for racial injustice, and agitators for racial justice,” Fletcher said.
In closing, Fletcher left her audience with a question: “How are we also participants in the history of racial injustice or racial justice made up of a million different moments? What will our history and our legacy be?”