Loyola University Maryland


Day of Reflection

Messina Image SquareSATURDAY, MARCH 12
A Day of Reflection with the authors of The Scandal of White Complicity in U.S. Hyper-Incarceration
10 am – 4 pm, 4th Floor Programming Room
Sponsored by Campus Ministry, Peace and Justice Studies, and Messina

About the Event: 

This Day of Reflection with the authors of The Scandal of White Complicity in U.S. Hyper-Incarceration offers a time to reflect, in a retreat-style format, on the moral role of white people in the disproportionate incarceration of African-Americans and Latinos in the United States. Alex Mikulich, Laurie Cassidy, and Margaret Pfeil are white Catholic theologians working to develop an understanding of how white privilege operates in the U.S. system of incarceration and witnessing to a Christian nonviolent way to subvert the oppression of our brothers and sisters of color. These renowned scholars will facilitate dialogue, reflection, and learning to explore the structural and cultural elements of racism. Participants will be invited to explore a nonviolent spirituality of resistance. The event is open to students, staff, faculty, and administrators.

Resources for Attendees:

  • Peace & Justice Lecture: Kelly Brown Douglas, “Black Bodies & the Justice of God” (Tuesday, March 8, 4 – 6 pm; 4th Floor Programming Room)
  • Rankine, Claudia. Citizen: An American Lyric. Graywolf Press, 2014.
  • Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Spiegel & Grau, 2014.

About the Speakers:

Laurie Cassidy, Ph.D. is a social ethicist.  Cassidy was associate professor, and chair of the religious studies department at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Previous to this position, she was visiting assistant professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.  Cassidy is an award winning author and editor.  Her latest book, The Scandal of White Complicity in U.S. Hyper-Incarceration: A Non-Violent Spirituality of White Resistance (New York: Palgrave, February 2013) is co-authored by Alex Mikulich and Margie Pfeil.  Cassidy just completed a year-long training at the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.  Over the past decade, she has been developing ethics pedagogies utilizing mindfulness meditation practices. Her research and writing explore the political and cultural impact of Christian mysticism in personal and social transformation.

Margaret Pfeil, Ph.D., holds a joint appointment in the Theology Department and in the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame. Professor Pfeil is a Faculty Fellow of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. With Tobias Winright, she co-edited Violence, Transformation, and the Sacred: They Shall Be Called Children of God (Orbis Books, 2012). With Gerald Schlabach, she is co-editor of Sharing Peace: Mennonites and Catholics in Conversation (forthcoming, Liturgical Press, 2013). Pfeil is a co-founder and resident of the St. Peter Claver Catholic Worker Community in South Bend, Indiana. Her research interests include Catholic social thought, racial justice, ecological ethics, ecumenical dialogue, and peace studies.

Alex Mikulich is an anti-racist social ethicist, facilitator, activist, and spiritual director.  He serves as Assistant Director of Mission and Ministry, Loyola University New Orleans.  In addition to co-authoring The Scandal of White Complicity in US Hyper-Incarceration, his scholarship includes co-editing and contributing to Interrupting White Privilege: Catholic Theologians Break the Silence (Orbis, 2007) that won the 2008 Theological Book of the Year Award from the College Theology Society. As a member of the International Thomas Merton Society, he was awarded a 2015-2016 Thomas Shannon Fellowship to examine the development of Thomas Merton's analysis of white innocence and supremacy at the Merton Archives, Bellarmine University.  Alex is a cancer survivor.  He and his wife Kara are about to celebrate their 29th anniversary.  They enjoy parenting two delightful teens--Katie and Tyler-- and caring for their basset hound Harley in New Orleans.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion:

  1. The black liberation theologian James H. Cone calls racism “America’s original sin.” In what ways does this sin manifest itself in the history of the United States? How is hyper-incarceration an instance of this sin?
  2. There are at least two alternatives for distributing justice: retributive justice and restorative justice. Retributive justice focuses on punishing a criminal for his or her actions, whereas restorative justice focuses on reconciling the victims, the offenders, and the community. Which mode of justice do we see most at work in the United States legal system? How might these understandings of justice either contribute to or help alleviate hyper-incarceration?
  3. The authors present hyper-incarceration as a means of control, not unlike slavery and the Jim Crow laws. What other ways do we notice white people attempting to exercise control over people of color, whether implicitly or explicitly? What are some non-violent strategies by which we might resist these systems of control?
  4. The authors suggest one instance of white complicity is a failure to engage in significant encounters with people of color, thereby allowing the illusion of white superiority, entitlement, and normativity to go unchallenged. How can we work to foster an environment on our campus where such encounters are possible?

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