A recent article by Mark Morrison-Reed in UU World, the Unitarian Universalist Association magazine, about the “black hole” in UU history, got me thinking about the connection between UU worship and race. According to Morriso-Reed, for all our proclaimed progressiveness, it seems we UUs have not really ever taken the lead in the fight against racism–internally or externally. I’ve been thinking about this history a lot lately, as my own UU congregation is discussing whether to display a “Black Lives Matter” sign on the church property. One part of Morrison-Reed’s article in particular jumped out at me:
This essay was originally published at Huffington Post. It has been republished here as part of a 5-part series for Black History Month.
Why “Black” Makes Us Uncomfortable
Dear fellow White people, let’s have an honest talk about why we say “All Lives Matter.”
This post was updated on Sept. 22, 2020.
Dear friends and fellow activists,
I am relatively new to activism, but over the last few years I have been pretty actively engaged in a variety of causes, from the environment to anti-racism to gun control. In addition to writing, Most of my activism has consisted of planning and participating in protests and other forms of expressive activism.
When I first started participating in protests, it was exhilarating. It felt empowering. I experienced for the first time in my life the power of masses of people gathered for a cause. It’s not an exaggeration to say it restored my faith in democracy. It offered me an avenue for action outside of the more traditional modes of political participation (like voting), with which I had become disenchanted.
I never expected marching, by itself, to effect revolutionary change. Rather, I saw mass events as opportunities to raise energy and build solidarity, especially among those who participate, but also among those who witness from afar. When people would ask me if I thought events like the Women’s March and the People’s Climate March “accomplished anything”, I would respond that what those events do is to help people realize that they are not alone, that together they have power when they act collectively, and to motivate them to organize when they go back home.
However, over time, I have come to see another perspective as well. There’s three problems that I now see with much of the protesting which we progressives do.
Each day of the month of April leading up to Earth Day (April 22), I will be offering a suggestion for how we can really honor the Earth this year. This list will go beyond the usual suggestions to change your light bulbs and take shorter showers. Instead, the focus is on collective action working toward radical social change.
If you haven’t experienced at least one privilege check in the last few years, you really haven’t been paying attention. We all need to examine how we are privileged. Look in the mirror … what do you see? Are you male? Are you heterosexual or cisgendered? Are you white? Are you able-bodied? Do you have some degree of job security? Are you educated? Do you have disposable income? Do you have a home? Are you legally married? Do you live in a “first world”/industrialized-developed country? These are all forms of privilege.
I can trace my transformation into an activist back to one article: “Twenty Things YOU Can Do To Address the Climate Crisis!” . Continue reading Use Your Privilege for Good