Are You “Woke” Yet?

Her Spirit Longs to Live with Us
March 15, 2021
Honor the victims with ACTION
March 25, 2021
Her Spirit Longs to Live with Us
March 15, 2021
Honor the victims with ACTION
March 25, 2021

By Sister Judith Ann Zielinski, OSF  

Are you “woke” yet?

“Woke” was officially added into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2017 as an adjective signifying “alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.”

 If you personally don’t feel “woke” or feel vaguely distant from the urgency of Black Lives Matter, here is a partial litany of recent African-American deaths that may disrupt your comfort level.

­­­­­­­George Floyd, 46

Minneapolis police confronted Floyd over accusations that he used a counterfeit $20 bill at a deli. A white police officer pinned the handcuffed Floyd to the pavement and knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as the black man pleaded for air: “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe. Please, man!” Three other officers helped restrain Floyd. When paramedics arrived, Floyd was pronounced dead.

Breonna Taylor, 26

Shortly after midnight, without any notice, three police officers used a battering ram to enter the Louisville home of Breonna Taylor, a black emergency room technician, as part of a narcotics investigation. Her boyfriend shot at the officers, striking one in the leg. Police fired more than 20 shots, striking Taylor at least eight times, killing her.

 Philando Castile, 32

Police officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled over Philando Castile, a school cafeteria manager, in a Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb. Yanez thought Castile fit the description of a robbery suspect, and approached the car window. Castile told the officer he had a firearm; Yanez told him not to pull out the gun but claimed that Castile did. Yanez fired seven shots at Castile, killing him.

Freddie Gray, 25

Freddie Gray was arrested by Baltimore Police officers, charged with possessing a knife. While being transported in a police van, Gray “sustained injuries.” He died a week later from severe spinal injuries that a medical examiner said were inflicted during the trip to the police station. The six officers involved were suspended without pay. Eventually, all six returned to work.

Samuel DuBose, 43

Ray Tensing, a University of Cincinnati police officer, pulled over Samuel DuBose for driving without a front license plate. As Tensing approached, DuBose started the car and Tensing yelled for DuBose to stop. The officer pushed his gun through the open car window and shot DuBose in the head. Tensing told investigators he was forced to shoot because he was being dragged by the car and “feared for his life.” Prosecutors tried Tensing twice, but juries deadlocked in both cases.

Tamir Rice, 12

On Nov. 22, 2014, someone called 911 in Cleveland reporting “someone near a recreation center playing with a gun and scaring people.” Police responded, and within seconds of arriving, Officer Timothy Loehmann opened fire, killing 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had been playing with a pellet gun. A grand jury declined to indict the two officers who responded.

Eric Garner, 43

Police caught Eric Garner illegally selling loose cigarettes on a street corner in Staten Island and gave him a warning. Two weeks later, police arrested Garner, unarmed, for the same violation. Officer Daniel Pantaleo gripped Garner around the neck as he gasped, “I can’t breathe” 11 times.  Garner lost consciousness and lay on the sidewalk for seven minutes until an ambulance arrived. He was pronounced dead at an area hospital approximately one hour later. No charges were filed against Pantaleo.

These deaths have thrown into sharp focus the United States’ long history of police brutality and the systemic racism so engrained in our country’s psyche. Yet many people of faith remain ambivalent, detached and even unmoved.

Father Bryan Massingale, an African-American priest and professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University, challenges Catholic complacency in the face of these events:

“I’m at a loss for words. I’m struggling to contain my anger and disgust with the pathetic, anemic Catholic response to the blatant disregard for Black life — for human life… This is the consistent pattern with Catholic engagement with racism. When it is acknowledged, it is only with bland sentiments of concern that are calculated to not disturb white Catholics. Church leaders rarely have the courage to address how central white racial resentment and fragility are… They are more concerned with the comfort of white people than the terror that racism forces people of color to live with.”

As messengers of peace, do we have any choice other than to become “woke?”

Sister Judith Ann Zielinski

Sr. Ann Marie Emon

Sister Judith Ann Zielinski has found a ministry telling stories, in which she communicates how others contribute to the greater good. She serves as the Director of Faith & Values Programming at NewGroup Media, in South Bend, Indiana, a position she has held since 2002.

She is a writer and producer of multiple broadcast and non-broadcast programs, that have taken place nationally as well as internationally.

In 2018, Sr. Judy celebrates her 50th Jubilee as a Sylvania Franciscan.

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2 years ago

I humbly and sincerely ask and state — Why is it that the black elite and white progressives refuse to mention the lives of the dozens of black children killed in drive-by shootings in the urban areas of the USA!? The silence is deafening when it comes to these killing. These senseless deaths are what “disrupts my comfort zone”! Why isn’t there an urgency of BLM for the innocent children dying by the hands of those whom reside in their community? Why are these children completely ignored by BLM, the black elite and the white progressives? I truly hope that… Read more »

Sister Faith Cosky
3 years ago

Thank you, Judy for keeping this litany before us.

Eileen Kerner
3 years ago

Succinct and to the point this human complacency is causing more lives to be destroyed. We are obligated to care about each other.

Shannon Schrein
3 years ago


3 years ago

I believe that “Black lives matter” and now, also Asian lives matter. I also believe we cannot say any lives matter until ALL lives matter.
Some “bad”cops do not make all cops bad. I know you weren’t inferring that in your blog but just wanted to add that comment.

Sharon Havelak
3 years ago

Thanks for the disruption, Judy! You would think that, as people of faith, love would come more easily than hate.

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