Wilton Gregory made historical past final fall when he became the first Black American to be appointed a cardinal in the Catholic Church. And although his new place locations him just one rung under the pope, Cardinal Gregory has confronted loads of discrimination in his life resulting from his pores and skin colour.
Gregory, 73, who oversees the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., mentioned his experiences with racism with Al Roker as a part of TODAY’s “Changemakers” sequence and in honor of Black Historical past Month. Requested whether or not he is handled racism throughout his journey by the priesthood, Gregory answered, “Oh, certain.”
“I do not know of any African American who hasn’t tasted the bitter cup of discrimination,” he defined. “Now so long as I used to be formally dressed, I am handled with nice respect and affection. But when I take off my clerics to exit, to buy groceries or run an errand, I am within the pool of each different African American man in Washington.”
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Gregory went on to recall a time he was handled poorly when he wasn’t dressed like a priest.
“Perhaps 15 or so years in the past, I used to be being hosted at a really beautiful Palm Springs golf membership,” he informed Al. “So I used to be there, dressed to play golf, and one other particular person — I opened the trunk — he stated, ‘You may put my golf equipment on the golf cart.’ And I needed to say, ‘Effectively, I can have someone retrieve your golf equipment, however I am right here to play golf.’ I by no means forgot that.
“But it surely’s good for me to do not forget that,” Gregory added. “It is good for me to not lose a grounding within the expertise of what it means to be an African American man in our nation.”
Whereas many Catholics could also be stunned that there have been no Black American cardinals earlier than 2020, Gregory understands the explanation.
“When a second happens like this, the response of lots of people is, ‘Why did it take so lengthy?'” he informed Al. “Effectively, it took so lengthy as a result of we’re nonetheless grappling with racism and with exclusion. That is nonetheless part of the world through which we dwell.”
Gregory sees ongoing racial unrest as “a reminder that regardless of all that we have been in a position to accomplish, the problem remains to be there,” calling it “sobering.”
The most effective options to this societal rigidity, he added, is dialogue.
“We’ve got to hear to one another,” Gregory emphasised. “Dialogue calls for each motions. It’s a must to say what’s in your coronary heart, however then it’s a must to say, ‘Now, what’s in your coronary heart?’ with the actual intent of listening to what one other says.”
Trying again on the historic day he stood in entrance of Pope Francis final November, he informed Al he felt “considerably numb” in that second.
“There have been so many ideas that have been going by my thoughts and coronary heart,” he recalled. “I thought of my mother and pa, and relations, my grandmother. But it surely was very humbling.”
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He probably did not count on that is the place his life’s journey would take him when he was a boy in Catholic faculty on the Southside of Chicago.
“The monks and the sisters in that parish have been simply extraordinary human beings, and I used to be simply mesmerized by them. And so I made a decision after about six, seven weeks, that I used to be going to be a priest,” he informed Al.
Now, he is obtained President Joe Biden, the country’s second Catholic president, as one in every of his parishioners. And whereas Gregory would not count on he’ll at all times agree with the commander in chief, he has a plan for learn how to deal with it.
“He is not going to be on velocity dial, and I hope I am not on his velocity dial,” he stated. “However there can be moments when I can converse to him about religion, in regards to the works that he’s making an attempt to perform that we may be supportive of, but additionally areas the place we’re not going to agree. However I will at all times attempt to do it in a respectful method.”
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