Since I was five years old, I have been asking the exact same question: How can skin color or religion possibly matter in how we treat each other? I did my “Wonder Bread” years, grades K-6, starting in 1961 when my family moved to Indianapolis, IN, where my father took a job as a corporate attorney. We practiced Judaism, which I quickly came to learn was not the norm. My three siblings and I also got a crash course about antisemitism and racial discrimination in our own neighborhood. The father of my first friend Carolyn, three doors down, went to secret evening meetings wearing a white robe. When I asked my mom about this, I was shocked to learn about the Ku Klux Klan. In our public elementary school, there were students who refused to sit next to us because we were Jewish. Ever since these first incidents occurred, I have been asking the same damn question… how can race or religion possibly be an issue in who we sit next to, in whose front yards the white-robed men commit their heinous acts or, on a more basic level, whether the four Alderman kids could try out for the yearly school Nativity play at Christmas?? (not only weren’t we allowed, we also couldn’t attend the practices or the show).
When well-meaning neighbors tried to explain that we had moved into the “Bible Belt”, I remember thinking that sounded like a cop-out. What a ridiculous umbrella to hide under, a heinous excuse for discriminatory behavior. Without having the words for it, I began my social justice work then and there, as a kindergartener. These questions and issues have never left the frontal lobe of my brain. I have never been satisfied with any of the answers.
One place where I have always focused my justice work has been in the area of voting. As a member of the League of Women Voters, Inspire Young Voters, Indivisible, and MOMs Demand Action, I began my efforts in Howard County about a decade ago (I am a NoVa transplant). I was thrilled to learn in 2020 that UUCC was getting involved with UU the Vote. With a raised hand and an open heart, I volunteered to be on the founding committee. Our group teamed up with you, our many volunteer congregants, to fulfill the Unitarian Universalist Association’s stated mission to be a non-partisan faith organization to energize our congregations and neighbors, educate and mobilize voters, and rally around key ballot initiatives.
Click here for more information about our congregation’s work in 2020. While we had many activities in 2020, my passion was leading the Board of Education forum to provide our community with up-to-date information about the candidates. This was a well-attended and well-received event. Wherever your interests and passions lie, we need YOU to join us in our 2022 UUCC the Vote efforts.
To learn more, check out the latest episode of UUCC’s podcast, Rooted & Reaching, which features a conversation with Ken Rock, this year’s UU the Vote organizer for UUCC. I also invite you to join us for the UU the Vote Launch Meeting on Sunday, June 19 and to email Ken Rock to get started and ask any questions you might have: email@example.com.
Oh my goodness, Laurie, I am so sorry you had these experiences growing up! This kind of discrimination leaves a mark for sure. I would certainly like to help with UU the Vote — though I have some limitations with handwriting postcards, etc. Keep me in mind as part of the team in some capacity. Kathy
Laurie, thank you for your heartfelt reflection and for your justice work on voting. I am sorry you had these negative experiences as a young person. I love your example of turning these negative experiences into positive action. Very inspiring!