15 July 2021, The Tablet

It is not enough to say ‘I am not a racist’

by Parishioners of Our Lady of Fatima

Racism in the Church

It is not enough to say ‘I am not a racist’

Our Lady of Fátima, White City


Last year a group of parishioners of Our Lady of Fátima in White City –which, despite its name, is a vibrant multicultural community in one of west London’s largest social housing estates – began to meet regularly on Zoom. They talked together about the reality of racism in the wider society – and also in their own community. These testimonies illustrate the everyday reality of racism within an ordinary Catholic parish in inner London

I am a “cradle Catholic”, born into the thick of racist and discriminatory practices in west London. Our family used to live in a dilapidated house in Notting Hill, where we were subjected to racist attacks from “Teddy boys” and National Front arsonists. In the early-1970s we were relocated to a flat on the White City Estate.

As a teacher, I was reminded by colleagues that my “face doesn’t fit” when it came to promotion to positions of leadership. I found myself fighting to progress professionally, in spite of years of success and experience, overlooked by younger, white, inexperienced males, to the point that the fight broke me. I was left unsupported and abandoned, forced by the white male leader in the school to sign a non-disclosure agreement and quietly leave my post. I found an echo of my personal ­experience in some of these testimonies from parishioners, which show how unconscious biases serve to reinforce the gulf of disadvantage, so that people of colour – black ­people – do not progress. Over time, the silence cements an acceptance of things just being OK that way, just because they are.

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