Discomfort & Language & Moral Imperatives

Discomfort & Language & Moral Imperatives

I think that the fundamental process of conversation is one of the great miracles of nature, that two people communicating with each other is an extraordinary phenomenon that has so far defied all attempts to capture it. There have been attempts made in many different disciplines—in cognitive science, in linguistics, in social theory—and no one has really made much progress. Communicating with another person remains an essentially mystical act.

—Jaron Lanier, Harper’s Magazine, May 1997

Many of us – Unitarian Universalists, UUCC members, progressive persons generally – are on the front lines in advocating for, and offering, comprehensive sexuality education for our young people. We are under no illusions that talking about sex and sexuality will cause our children to engage in more sexual activity. Rather, we understand that the better they’re informed, the more they understand, the less mysterious and less illicit it is, the more likely they are to make safer, more responsible choices in their sexual activity. So, we respect sexuality and talk frankly about it, using language that is explicit and accurate, instead of euphemisms. We have demonstrated our commitment to communicating openly and well on these topics, no matter how uncomfortable and challenging it may be. We understand that our children’s lives – and our own – depend on it.

The reality of racism in America needs no less commitment and candor from us. And that is why UUCC – with more than 600 other UU congregations – has agreed to participate in the White Supremacy Teach-In this Sunday, May 7. I hope you’ll join us for worship, in which we’ll explore this topic in word and song, and then participate in listening circles (in which persons of color will be invited into their own affinity group).

I know that there is resistance among us to putting the words white and supremacy together. For many, it takes real effort to move beyond mental images of members of the KKK or Aryan Nations or Neo-Nazism. But persons of color in our UU movement are asking us please to listen to their stories and experiences, to understand that white supremacy is a reality in which we live, and that it’s more than the ideologies of radical White Supremacists. So I’m asking all of us at UUCC to suspend judgment and accept an invitation into real conversation, using accurate language to help us better relate to one another.

The lives of Black and Brown bodies literally depend on it. And so does our collective spiritual well-being.

I do hope I’ll see you on Sunday. In the meantime, if you have 5-7 minutes to take a brief survey, it would be much appreciated. The Black Lives of UU organizers would like to get a sense of how Unitarian Universalists are feeling and thinking about the topics of racism and white supremacy, especially as related to our local faith communities, Unitarian Universalism as a whole, and to ourselves as individuals.

If you’re interested in doing some further reading to remind yourself of some of the history of racism, especially in relation to faith communities – or if you’re still wondering about the recent outcry in the UUA – I commend any of the pieces below that are available online. And parents of children in UUCC religious education program, please watch your inboxes tomorrow for a message from Robin that will contain lots of resources, too!

Yours in faith and love,

“Letter from Birmingham City Jail”, by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr – a 1963 response from Dr. King to “My dear Fellow Clergyman” after eight Alabama ministers made a public statement calling on protestors to peacefully observe “the principles of law and order and common sense” in seeking racial justice

“The Empowerment Tragedy”, by Mark Morrison-Reed – published in 2011, this article offers some history and reflection about the ‘black empowerment’ controversy that nearly tore the Unitarian Universalist Association apart in the late 1960s

“On being a good ‘fit’ for the UUA”, by Christina D. Rivera – a statement from a final candidate who went un-hired for a UUA leadership job

“Letter to UUA Board of Trustees”, by Aisha Hauser – a request for specific, concrete policy actions regarding hiring at the UUA

“On Self Righteous Hysteria”, by Aisha Hauser – commentary on feelings vs. injustice

“Critics see white supremacy in UUA hiring practices”, by Elaine McArdle – a report about the most recent incident(s) that led to the resignation of the Rev. Peter Morales as President of the UUA

“Interim co-presidents see ‘opportunity to re-center ourselves’”, by Elaine McArdle – a recent report about current leadership in the UUA, following Morales’ resignation

And finally, at the very bottom of this webpage you’ll find other resources: #UUWhiteSupremacyTeachIn Resources


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