As a Black woman who has been a member of the Roman Catholic Church all of my life, it would have never occurred to me while growing up that being both Black and Catholic was considered an anomaly.
It also would have never occurred to me that my racial and religious backgrounds combined to form what is generally considered a disparate identity. After all, the parish where I spent the beginning of my childhood was predominantly Black. There were a number of other Black parishes in Philadelphia, my hometown. I knew that my family’s place in the Catholic Church spanned hundreds of years through my great-grandmother’s hometown of New Orleans, through her great-grandparents’ hometowns in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and back even farther to Spain.
I grew up believing — and still believe with every fiber of my being — that my family was as Catholic as any one family could be. After all, didn’t every Black Catholic family’s story sound like mine? Didn’t non-Black Catholics (and White Catholics, in particular) know that Black families had long trajectories in the Catholic Church? It was not until I was an adult that I realized the answers are “not exactly” and “no.”