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Wednesday, July 6, 2005

UUA Trustees respond to racism at General Assembly.

The UUA Board of Trustees has issued a letter responding to a series of racist or racially charged incidents that especially affected young people of color who were attending the General Assembly in Fort Worth. The letter isn't yet at the UUA website, but is at FUUSE and Radical Hapa.

Update 7.7.05: Here's the official letter: "An open letter to UU youth of color and UU people of color who attended Fort Worth General Assembly and the broader UU community" (7.6.05).

Update 7.16.05: The Religion News Service reports on the Board's response: "Unitarian Board Apologizes" (Nancy Glass [RNS], Charlotte [N.C.] Observer 7.16.05); see here for more.

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 6 July 2005 at 5:33 PM

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July 6, 2005 08:50 PM | Permalink for this comment

So who was the minister who is now in deep doo-doo?

Eric Posa:

July 6, 2005 11:16 PM | Permalink for this comment

As the GA Staff Chaplain on call Monday night, I became tangentially involved in the aftermath of this event (within a few minutes after leaving Philocrites' company, it turns out), being present with several (white) youth leaders as they worked to manage the chaos following these events, and the subsequent decision by youth leaders to cancel the Monday night dance. It was a painful night for many people, especially, but not only, youth.

Someone asked, "who was the minister who is now in deep doo-doo?" I don't know, having heard only part of the story myself. And while a part of me is curious, I've sat with that curiosity since last Monday night, and concluded that it's probably better not to know who did what. I don't want to point blame at individuals, so much as look for systemic solutions to these painful problems.

I must admit I'm angry--angry at the powers that be in my hometown of Fort Worth, for living up to the stereotypes that I thought we were moving past here, but even more angry at white Unitarian Universalists for so easily falling into racist patterns of behavior. As a white UU myself, this anger is doubly uncomfortable.

Of course, this is not all white UUs, but I genuinely believe a lot of us white religious liberals tend NOT to be mindful, of how our power and privilege based on race can play out when we interact with people of color. I'm accusing no one in our ranks of holding explicitally racist attitudes or prejudices--racist beliefs and intentions are NOT what I'm talking about when I call these acts racist. I'm describing how we sometimes (often?) act in ways that reinforce our society's tendencies to treat white people as more worthy or deserving--and people of color as less deserving--to experience certain being delegates or attendees at GA.

What seems most relevant to me, now, is seeing how we can move forward. It's often said that the task of ministry is to "comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable." We have many UUs in our ranks--youth of color and adults of color alike--who have been afflicted with racist attitudes, acts, and encounters, and afflicted by white UUs like me. People who deserve to experience comfort in our "beloved communities" (a point which should go without saying, but perhaps deserves repeating, given the experiences of racism at GA).

Meanwhile, many of us white UUs--not all, but many of us--tend to express comfort with our racial attitudes. I think we need to be afflicted--not with shame, guilt, and finger-pointing, but with the awareness of the kinds of behavior that led to this pain, and encouragement to be ever-more mindful and proactive ways to short-circuit these racist dynamics that we (often inadvertantly) fall into, and engage one another authentically.

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