“Love isn’t a feeling, it’s a practice.” — Rinku Sen
We have just marked Independence Day, the birth of our nation. While celebrating its rich legacy of democracy and diversity, we are steeped in the angst and controversy of the questions it surfaces, “Whose country is it?” and, “Who are real Americans?” or “Who are the proper inheritors of that legacy?” Deep questions of identity and meaning.
As Unitarian Universalists we are experiencing those questions as a faith, for we are born of the same principles that brought forth the nation, and consequently are also inheritors of its tensions, contradictions and challenges. We are inspired by the vision of the universally inclusive Beloved Community, even while we are ensnared in the ubiquitous White Supremacy Culture, and the oppressions through which it expresses itself. They are the water in which we swim. And they are hurting us- all of us.
While we do not wish to perpetuate the hurt, we do it anyway when we are defensive and protective of our known and familiar ways, dismissing or disregarding the very real cost to others of our dismissal. Sometimes we are simply so grounded in our own location, that we fail to consider what it might be like to be grounded elsewhere.
At our UUA General Assembly this June, in Spokane, Washington, the Right Relations Team made a report to the delegates each morning about possible issues or incidents that had occurred the day before. Sometimes it is painful to be reminded of the ways we inadvertently hurt one another.
One morning the team told the story of a woman, a General Assembly delegate, who, upon spotting a non-binary gender identified person, went over to them, threw up her arms and with a beaming smile welcomed them, and told them how pleased she was that they were there with us.
This woman, white, cis-gendered, assumed that she was in a position to welcome this other person into Unitarian Universalism and the General Assembly. What gave her that authority? They were both delegates. They were therefore both already “in.” For all she knew, they may have been UU’s all their life, and maybe she was newer to Unitarian Universalism than were they. She didn’t know. But she assumed that she was the “regular UU,” and they were in some ways different and not fully “in,” not one of us.
When we hear about micro aggressions experienced by marginalized people, it can be easy to dismiss them as small. But the cumulative effect is profound.
Our house meetings surfaced a universal desire for more diversity in our congregation. Your leadership is taking that seriously. And it is taking a step toward creating an environment in A2U2 in which persons with marginalized identities will feel at home.
On Saturday, September 28th, we will be hosting Meck Groot, from our Regional Northern New England Staff Team. We invited her to offer a one-day workshop on Multicultural Competency. It should provide us with a solid grounding and a good beginning, for the work we want to do together. The more of us attend, the more effective it will be, because we will be learning together. Your leadership has made a commitment to this effort. Your Board will be there and our Community Council and all others who wish to be a part of reshaping of our culture to be more authentically and meaningfully diverse.
Mark your calendars. Saturday, September 28. We can do this together!
Note: You may be interested in the historic speech by Frederick Douglass: ”What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”