What I Don’t Know, I Don’t Know

I was that proud UU who felt all 7 principles applied to my personal experiences and understanding I was not racist.  I hope to share my own path of what I don’t know, I don’t know.

My mom’s family roots are from the Mayflower period and my dad was a direct immigrant from England. England helped create the slave trade and provided ships. I know the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia had slaves in 1619. I know President Rutherford B. Hayes—maternal relative— agreed to end reconstruction in a deal cut in 1877, breaking a tie in the electoral college to secure his presidency.

When I used to say “I don’t see color” my background highlights why.  My mom worked as a doctor at an institution where we lived above on “the hill.” Once a person was AWOL and we were asked if we had seen a colored man?  The neighbor reminded me of this story recently, and recalled being shocked at the term “colored” because her dad was from Trinidad. She initially visualized rainbow colors!! Most of the doctors there were Indian, Filipino, or Chinese. Common in institutions, in the 70s, as white doctors rarely applied to work there.

One of my own stories took me three decades to realize what really happened.  My teacher asked me to run for class president—I hadn’t put in for it, but willingly said yes.  It turned out a friend had expressed an interest to run—he was Black. Looking back, I see this as racist of the teacher.

My mom displayed no racism and my dad totally did.   He would “gawk” at people of color and especially vocalized against interracial couples. I knew it was wrong and started calling him out for it.

Our UU church in Eugene had a Sociology professor who was Black; there are few people of color we see in most of our denominations. I served on diversity committees, helped lead workshops for my union, attended rallies, and still realize there is much I didn’t know I didn’t know.

Fast forward to last year, I began devouring everything I could on the topic. With Google, YouTube, TED Talks, books, and movies/documentaries, I began to see there was much I either never knew or had forgotten. I began to grapple with topics of reparations, red lining, the real reason private schools exist, how banking and our economic structure blocked huge swaths of folx from even coming close to the “American dream.”
I began attending the People’s Church Antiracist Discussion Group that meets monthly, second Sunday.

It is exhausting.  And yet I know to be accountable
I must persevere, keep learning and encourage our People’s people to join me in our monthly discussion on our white supremacy culture. To be silent is beyond complicity—it is accepting the way things have been for 400 plus years.

In Journey,
In Solidarity,
Brian Lewis

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