As we discussed during our seminar session this week, Catholics were not always seen as full citizens in the United States. For a very long time, there has been a prejudice labeling Catholics as “other.” This “otherness” made Catholics not exactly White, like a separate ethnicity. Overall, I think the prejudices that Catholics faced in the past have been tempered. If anything, this is because prejudices for other groups have taken the attention off of American Catholics. However, I do expect to see remnants of the past prejudices reemerge from time to time, especially if the initial prejudice was not truly eliminated but simply “distracted from”. I imagine it could reemerge in a similar way that prejudice towards Catholics affected President John F. Kennedy. It was used in an attempt to damage his creditability by suggesting he would be more loyal to the Pope than to the American people. I imagine, those with prejudices against Catholics wouldn’t attempt to label us as lesser, due to our faith, as they sometimes do with other groups. However, they may use Catholicism as a way to discredit or create doubts.
As an assignment for class, I traveled around to parts of Chicago that were completely new to me. This task was very intimidating, but I used it as an excuse to overcome my reservations and anxieties about traveling in a new part of the city by myself. While exploring historical sites around Chicago, I ran across a statue commemorating James Connolly. He was a Catholic Irishman who is described as an Irish patriot and labor leader. The statue was erected and dedicated in 2008 by the Irish-American Labor Council of Chicago. This statue is a reminder of the work that many Catholics did in support of the development of labor unions. The statue was placed in Union park which was named after the “federal union” in 1853. The park’s social history also extends far beyond its naming after unions. The park also became the first integrated park in Chicago in the 1910’s, when African American populations began settling in the neighborhood.
Walking around Chicago’s neighborhoods really brought to my attention the little pieces of history scattered throughout everyday life in the city. The history of Union Park, James Connolly, and the Haymarket Affair are not forgotten in Chicago. If anything, the histories and their global impacts are celebrated as victories for the common man and pieces of proud Chicagoan heritage.
I was quite interested in the fact that Catholic’s were at the forefront of labor rights battles. In some cases, they were huge supporters of labor unions. I do share many of these same opinions on wages, benefits, working conditions, and rights on the job. As someone who has grown up in the 21st century, almost all of the rights Catholics at this time were fighting for, I have had the benefit of living with, no questions asked. The laws restricting the hours and types of work children the ages of 15, 16, and 17 can do have always been there protecting myself and my friends who also started working early. Weekends have always been a given.
I do share the same belief that labor unions are highly beneficial. Especially, now that I have left the food-service industry after 3 years at Chick-fil-A in Louisville, Kentucky. As a Resident Assitant at Loyola Chicago, the job is, overall, very enjoyable. However, there are definitely things that could be improved. They way we are paid and the laundry list of things we are expected to do can definitely be discussed and negotiated. The job really does go far beyond the description on paper. However, because we are classified as “student leaders” and not employees, we are not allowed to join organizations like unions. This essentially takes any negotiation power we may have or want off of the table. There are always things that may be improved and although we can make suggestions, that does not mean that they will be discussed or implemented.
Thank you for joining me! My interest in the sometimes political nature of Catholicism stems from my being a Catholic as well as my being a Political Science major. As an African American Catholic, I, along with my church and community, use political awareness and activism in order to affect a world that is not always kind to those who are different.
Today, I believe some of the most important political issues stem from what I could call, “the right to make a decision,” whether that be, the right to chose to use birth control, to have an abortion, or to refuse service to someone on the grounds of faith and belief. I believe these controversies have largely been decided and enforced in the past. However, this has not been done in a way has been fully accepted by the American people. This, in my opinion, is why discussions and legal battles on these topics have begun again.
To be honest, at the beginning of this research seminar, I cannot confidently say how I hypothesize Catholics may have voted on tissues in the past or today. The before-mentioned issues are extremely nuanced, and so is the Catholic vote. As discussed in class, it is very hard to align “The Catholic Vote” with one particular political party or with one particular issue. In class, Mark said, “Catholics tend to vote for life” and whatever that may mean to them. I can’t help but agree with him on this concept. Whether it pertains to Pro-Life stances or the expansion of civil rights laws, Catholics don’t to staunchly fit into one box or the other. We never have, and I don’t expect we ever will.