Conversations on Race:  Are you ready?

Carolyn HeinemanAt Sunday service on August 28, a subgroup from People’s that attended General Assembly showed a video of UU youth/young adults of Color calling out the UU membership for “not doing the work of racism” within our own organization and congregations.

Their view is that the passing of a 2015 resolution to ‘support’ the Black Lives Matter movement is hollow and non-supportive, exemplified by a 2016 delegate vote to defeat a resolution to hold a national Conversation on Race—a conversation that would examine racial dynamics within UU congregations and the UUA.  This hollowness created pain, distress and anger for People of Color (POC).

If you haven’t seen the video, I strongly encourage you to do so (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Txo9mvFOHo or search youtube.com with key words “#505 Responsive Resolution on Racism”).  It is oh so difficult to witness.  But please, if you haven’t already, I ask you to lean on your UU principles for strength, and bear this witness.  The absolute courage it must have taken to stand up and truth-tell is in its own way an excruciating joy to behold.  I lost my breath watching it.

With some frequency, I’ve heard members of our congregation, and other UU congregations, express a desire to be a more multiracial group.  Do you ever wonder what POC experience when encountering us?  What it is that they see or hear that leads them to return … or not?  Feel supported … or not?  What is it that the POC youth at GA were really protesting?  What is it we’re missing?

Over time I’ve heard several prominent white antiracist activists separately recount stories of their journey to figure out how to help oppressed people—how to resolve the disease of racism—that were remarkably similar to each other.  They talk about having joined with POC, declaring some version of “I want to help you”.  In each case, the POC ultimately said to them, “If you want to help us, we ask you to return to your white community and help them look more closely at their own whiteness, and begin to understand how it supports the continuation of systemic racism.” Beyond these examples, I hear similar echoes from local POC, imploring well-intended white people to stop hurting them in the name of good intentions.

During this church year, the Anti-Racism Anti-Oppression Multi-Cultural (ARAOMC) Committee will be offering opportunities for our congregation to have safe open difficult direct conversations about the ways we don’t currently realize that we cause injury to People of Color, even in the process of trying to help.  We’re stronger together.  We’re going there.  Are you ready?  Will you come?

The dates and structures of these conversations will be announced in October.

May all beings be safe,
Carolyn Heineman, ARAOMC Committee

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