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Br. Steve Herro's Blog


Br. Steve HerroBr. Steve Herro, O. Praem., professed solemn vows to the Community of St. Norbert Abbey in 1991. For several years, he headed the justice and peace ministry of St. Norbert Abbey and presently serves as Manager of Mission and Ministry, Catholic Charities USA, Alexandria, VA. His current ministry connects him to national Catholic issues and Church ministers throughout the country.

DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro's own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of neither of the organizations, St. Norbert Abbey nor Catholic Charities USA, nor of any of the organizations' members.

July 1, 2014
Entry #29: "Addressing privilege and personal prejudice"

by Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

On June 21, 2014, I was privileged to face my prejudice and presumed white, male, middle class, gainfully employed, American, and well-educated privilege head-on. In retrospect, I am reminded of the self-deprecating story that a friend tells of his own sabbatical experience when he did not get the exact course offering at the exact time that he wanted: “So, you are a male, priest, and retired religious superior and you did not get what you wanted–so what!”

I live in the fourth largest metro area of the United States and the seat of our national government. I also live in a section of the city with greater poverty and crime than other areas of Washington. Convinced by loving siblings to receive urgent medical care because of a suspected infection on a Saturday, I Googled “urgent care Washington, D.C.” (am I not privileged to have access to a corporate iPhone and Google?) and quickly discovered that there was an urgent care facility about two miles away. It was open until 6 p.m.

I knew the exact neighborhood. I passed it every day on the way to work. Did I really want to be treated at a clinic in a neighborhood of which the most memorable images were those of men and women living under the Metro tracks 365 days a year? Indeed, this was a far cry from Kansas, or even my friendly personal physician in De Pere’s comfortable Ledgeview development.

I arrived, asked to see a health care professional, and was informed that I had a one-to-two hour wait. Welcome to neighborhood health care, Steve. I agreed to wait, sat down, and began to complete some overdue correspondence on my laptop computer (another symbol of privilege). The clinic was actually quite clean and soothing. I was joined by about ten others in the waiting area, of various races, medical conditions, but mostly all under 40 years of age–what, no trauma victims? Check your prejudice at the door, Steve.

I was examined and given a prescription for my infection. No problem; I again whipped out my iPhone to locate the closest CVS pharmacies, thanked the staff, and walked out. I did stop at three pharmacies on the way home, none “out of the way,” but all closed at 6 p.m.; so, my prescription would have to wait 16 hours.

But it was a conversation that night with a loved one that helped me to formulate this blog entry. “You mean to tell me that there is not a 24-hour pharmacy in your neighborhood?” I attempted to “politely” explain that the “modern conveniences” of daily life do not arrive in low-income neighborhoods as quickly as they do in other places. I think that I made my point, but she replied to the effect of, “Ok, but I will take my comforts of suburban life any day.”

We might have the rudimentary beginning of more affordable health care in our country, but as long as those living in low-income neighborhoods do not have the same access to health services as others, we still have a long way to go. We can pass laws until the cows come home, but until well-meaning Americans acknowledge the facts of prejudice and the unjust privilege enjoyed by many white, middle- and upper-class, and well-educated people, we will not achieve “the more perfect Union” or “beloved community” of which our national heroes wrote so eloquently centuries or decades ago.


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