by Mary McKillip, Chair, Racial Justice Initiative
Members of our church watched the January 30th Black Lives UU panel discussion Whose Faith is it Anyway?, some as a group at the church, some cozy at home on their own. We hope to continue to have discussions of this panel over the next month – it is brilliant, thought-provoking, challenging, uplifting. I encourage all UUCWC members to watch it and pay attention to your reactions, positive and negative. It is an honor to be invited in to this conversation, and important for us to gather all the insight we can from it, about, ourselves, our congregation, and our faith. Here are some quotes from the panelists, to hopefully convince you to take a listen:
“I am a Jew-egelical. I grew up in a half-Black, half-Jewish neighborhood. And all of my friends were Jewish. The idea of Unitarianism was something I never heard of until I was grown. But Universalism has been with me my entire life. In rebellion to my evangelical upbringing, I refused to believe that my Jewish friends were going to hell. That was just anathema to me.” – Kimberly Hampton
“If we think about Unitarian Universalism as a faith that is about covenant, that is about relationship, that is about community – ‘Communitarian’ Universalists. You cannot be in covenant if you believe in supremacy. That is to say, if you believe fundamentally that your humanity is better and above somebody else’s humanity, particularly at the location of their identity, whether it’s race, gender, sexuality, ability, neurotypical… you cannot be in covenant, in right relationship, in deep relationship, if you believe yourself fundamentally to be better than other folk.” – Takiyah Amin
“As a little black boy from East St Louis, Illinois, who was raised in a midwestern and southern Bapticostal tradition, when I became a seeker of different traditions outside of my own, I actually discovered Unitarian Universalism early in my journey in the early 2000s. There are three things that struck me about what I observed: First, I was really excited about the plurality, and the space for difference and multiplicity and otherness. And I thought this is what feels right for me. And that was really exciting. But there were two things that concerned me: There was this assumption about reason and mind over body. And again as a good black midwestern Bapticostal, much of our spiritual journey is embodied. Worship is embodied, the way that we share in community is very bodily, and so the notion of a tradition that felt more concerned with cerebral-ness (and this is coming from a nerd) over bodily expression, seemed a bit standoffish and forboding to me and limiting. And then also, I didn’t know any black people who were Unitarian Universalists. All the representation were very very white. And that also became a huge barrier for me.” – Donte Hilliard
Responding to listener question: What can congregations do to make themselves more welcoming to people of color? “I feel like it’s all about hospitality. Granted I’m a child of the South and I feel like that is something that is really embedded in me. I feel like that is the thing that invites black folk, people of color, honestly, all people into a space. And if a community, fellowship, doesn’t have strong hospitality, you won’t see my black body there. I have to feel welcome. I have to feel held in the space. I have to feel invited to move as I move and not feel that I necessarily have to align with the way you do things. Because that’s not real hospitality. That’s basically trying to make me assimilate.” – E.N. Hill
“What do I find in the theology of Unitarian Universalism that is appealing? Well, the theology itself is appealing, for all the reasons that have been stated, for all the reasons that have been documented in all the places. It’s the practice of the theology that I struggle with. Just like how Christians often have a hard time being a Christian, and Buddhists have a hard time being Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists have a hard time being Unitarian Universalists. I sometimes wish that they would more consistently live up to the principles that are documented.” – DeReau Farrar
“I wanted to name my home UU congregation church in Oakland. Which, by the name, might have some expectation that it would be primarily or mostly black space, but it is not. And also my school, both being very different UU contexts and primarily white. And what was pleasant about this was that they actually have been committed to trying to work on the principles. They haven’t been getting it necessarily right, but what has been really amazing and transformative for me in my UU experience is their willingness to keep coming back to try again. Even after something might have happened that might have caused me or harm to black community/blackness in general. I’ve been fortunate to be around people who keep coming back to try, to look at ‘How can we do this differently?’ And I’ve witnessed when someone else is being approached and some element of harm has happened to me but I didn’t speak up at the time – I didn’t need to—someone else spoke up. And that gave me a sense of free. Because I was already feeling free and being myself, but that was the thing of feeling free and not having harm come at me. So then being, there, feeling free, and seeing harm coming towards me and seeing a white ally jump in front of that.” – E.N. Hill
Here are some upcoming ways you can get involved and support racial justice:
- Watch teens act out and discuss scenes from Raisin in the Sun on February 28 at Trinity Cathedral in Trenton at 7pm. Email Denny at email@example.com to RSVP.
- UU Anti Racism Workshop on March 8- 10: Do you wish to deepen your understanding of how race and ethnicity play out in our institutions and our daily lives? Jubilee Anti-Racism Training helps participants understand what is involved in nurturing a multicultural community and working against racism in all of its forms. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
- Read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and watch for details on an upcoming ARE 3-session discussion group using this book. Robin DiAngelo also has a video Deconstructing White Privilege that is a great watch too.
- Refer to our reading list from last summer for some additional reading materials to get you through the chilly winter.
- Watch Roma (streaming on Netflix) set in Mexico City and nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Latino USA has a great interview on their podcast with the director Alfonso Cuaron.
- Stay Tuned! We will soon host some upcoming discussion groups on the January 30th BLUU panel as well as discussion of the play The Niceties that recently ended its run at McCarter Theater in Princeton.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Email email@example.com.