Race Issues Sparked Jesuit’s Passion for Social Justice

Jesuit Father Fred KammerFor Jesuit Father Fred Kammer, the issue of race is what first sparked his interest in social justice. “Growing up in New Orleans in the late 1950s, the race issue was just beginning to open up,” Fr. Kammer recently told an audience at Cabrini College in Pennsylvania.

Fr. Kammer said he remembers, at age 9, the Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 when the court declared the segregation of schools unconstitutional.

“But it really didn’t hit,” Fr. Kammer said. “The glamour of that court decision was the court said, ‘You should desegregate schools with all deliberate speed.’

“The problem is, what is all-deliberate speed? For many states there wasn’t much speed at all,” Fr. Kammer said. “States held off and resisted.”

Fr. Kammer was under what he calls “extra special pressure” being a young man attending a Jesuit school in the wake of desegregation. He said all eyes were on him as a Jesuit student who was supposed to be representing his school.

“The buses were desegregated. I was 13 [when I sat] down next to a person of color for the first time,” Fr. Kammer said. “I had grown up in a segregated world, watching other people sit down or not sit down, or a black person sit down next to a white person who got up.”

The values that drew Fr. Kammer to social justice have stayed with him. As a Jesuit, Fr. Kammer went to law school and worked in legal services in Atlanta and Baton Rouge among the poor. Today Fr. Kammer is the director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute at Loyola University New Orleans.

Fr. Kammer says being active in social justice is not as daunting as people may think.

“If you can find one way to be engaged with people who are poor and needy – disadvantaged – and one issue that you get really interested in, even for the rest of your life, that’s a wonderful combination,” Fr. Kammer said.

To read more about Fr. Kammer’s talk, visit Cabrini College’s Loquitur website.

3 Responses to “Race Issues Sparked Jesuit’s Passion for Social Justice”

  • Julie Loofbourow:

    I am a Retired Deputy Sheriff. I spent 20 years working the street in rural King County WA. I saw many instances of “class related biases”, people so poor they still used outhouses, and 5 miles away are 1 million dollar homes. What I found so engaging was to work with both communities and get them to understand each other. It was never perfect, but the children seemed to catch on better than the adults, and understood some are meant for College and Universities, others the Trade schools, and others to Farm and Ranch. My goal was to show everyone that each has it’s distinct value and each persons success is measured by their ability to succeed at their chosen life style, in the way they wished to live it. Frequently it was frustrating, particularly with the adults. I’m am sure you have seen the people dressed well attending functions, seated as far away from the less financially advantaged as was possible. Take the kids sporting events. sometimes the stands have a nearly perfect line between the “locals” and the “Upper Crust”. But as long as our future understands all are equal in Gods eyes and should be equal in mans eyes there is great hope that mankind will become more generous to those who struggle so much. Reading Father Krammer’s talk reminded me that despite some setbacks, as long as a seed is planted, it just may grow!

    Thank You

    Julie Loofbourow

  • At times it’s easy to show concern for and engage in solving problems of injustice if you are not in the context where they flourish. Fred’s courage and integrity led him to challenge his home ground in the pursuit of fairness and decency. A measure of his character and success can be found in how positively his life and work have impacted New Orleans and the broader U.S. society. We all all blessed by him and his achievements.

  • At times it’s easy to show concern for and engage in solving problems of injustice if you are not in the context where they flourish. Fred’s courage and integrity led him to challenge his home ground in the pursuit of fairness and decency. A measure of his character and success can be found in how positively his life and work have impacted New Orleans and the broader U.S. society. We all are blessed by him and his achievements.