Thou doth protest too much, methinks

I know it has been said about a zillion times before, but I feel like some UUs have taken on being anti-racist, anti-oppression, etc. as a hobby. It is ALL OVER the GA schedule. There must be 6000 workshops on how to organize anti-oppressive stuff, how to be anti-racist, how to develop anti-racist policies. As if if you have enough workshops on it or say anti-racist enough that will somehow fix the institutionalized racism that is all over the place including in each and every one of our lives when we live in our nice white neighborhoods, send our kids to private schools, and do all the millions of other things that privileged middle class UUs do every day. I know I need to think a lot more about this to articulate something clear and coherent about it, but I’m sure that having ten zillion workshops on anti-racist, anti-oppression work will not make a lot of difference. A tad maybe, but not much. The thing is that supporting equality for everyone is hard. A lot harder than organizing trainings, making manuals, passing resolutions, and having meetings and worships theme around anti-oppression. And I just don’t think that UUs in general (like most middle class people in general) are willing to do the hard stuff it would take to transform institutional racism. While I am not claiming to have the answer, I’d say somehow interacting with black and Hispanic people and communities would be a good start. (Which brings this bizarre image to my mind of white UUs going out to try to recruit people of color just to have diversity, which of course doesn’t work so well either in so many ways… which of course points out that it is a difficult thing when you want to be diverse but somehow don’t manage to attract the diverse people you want to have in your group….) . Which is why I think that the urban ministry work is a step in the right direction. You don’t have to run around with anti-racist stamped on your forehead for that. Rather, the work of engaging and working together with communities where people are different and substantially less privileged speaks for itself. It is work of solidarity. Work with other people and communities rather than working about them somehow. It brings to mind my all time favorite quote, “If you have come to help me, don’t waste your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, let us work together.” Which I’m sure applies to the anti-racist work of UUs except the small thing of “working together” since most UU communities are very removed from most communities of people of color. I hope this isn’t too politically incorrect by UU standards. OBVIOUSLY, I am not against equality for all people and the hard work and focused work it takes to get there. I am just suspicious of all the UU stuff where lots of white, pretty well off people seem to chant anti-racism, anti-oppression stuff together, to each other, until they are blue in the face. Maybe there is some sort of account out there of the difference this actually makes. I’m sure it makes some. I would just like to read more about how this is actually the best way to go. I could be convinced. I am just not there yet. The thing that gets me (I’ll stop after this) is what the black and hispanic and other people of color and other oppressed peoples would think of all this. If I showed this to B, one of the amazing young men I’ve mentored from Dayton, OH…and now I think you would say we are friends or pseudo-family rather than mentor/mentee since he is 19 now and we’ve known each other for 12 years.. but anyway, I think he would just crack up and think it was weird if he saw all the workshop titles and statements. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have nice things to say about the GA program soon. And I’ll attend some of these anti-racist things to see what they are all about. Don’t knock it until you try it, as they say.

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4 Responses to Thou doth protest too much, methinks

  1. LaReinaCobre says:

    I agree that white folks should do more than just talk about race. But based on my own experience, I think a LOT of white middle class folks who attempt to do urban ministry (or any of these types of things) need to do some serious analysis before they inflict themselves on the unsuspecting people of color and not-quite-middle-class contingency.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I completely agree about the potential hazards of working in urban ministry and, as you so aptly put it, “inflicting themselves on the unsuspecting people of color and not-quite-middle-class contingency.” I have been in relationship with some folks in a Dayton urban community for about 11 years now and I remember in the summer sometimes going to visit the families I knew there and seeing some big bible study van giving prizes away to kids if they accepted Jesus. I’m sure it wasn’t that overt (accept Jesus = get a bike) but pretty darn close. There one day, gone the next. It was really disturbing. I think, based on my limited knowledge, that the UU urban ministry does a pretty good job in Roxbury of being with and working WITH that community, rather than doing what I call “hit and run service” or (worse) “hit and run evangelism” so I was mostly pointing that out as an alternative to UU rhetoric of doing anti-racist work, yet often (I believe) failing to do the difficult work in our own lives that makes progress toward deconstructing institutionalized racism. Glad to have you reading lareinacobre :) Thanks for the comment.

  3. LaReinaCobre says:

    Hmm – I guess I have been here before – and not that long ago! I had forgotten since I didn’t recognize the name (I am bad with names).

    I hear you saying that folks need to do more than just meet with other UUs and talk about how terrible racism is. I agree! Being anti-racist is about transformation. That has to happen within. Sometimes it takes to discussions within your religious community to prompt that transformation, however. These workshops shouldn’t be just about giving out information, but challenging folks to extend themselves, reflect, and be willing to change. Be willing to do whatever is necessary to cross these barriers.

  4. Clyde Grubbshttp://justworld.typepad.com/perspectives/2006/07/the_gifts_and_g.html says:

    Elizabeth,
    much of my ministry right now is working with ministers and seminarians of color. I am of cherokee and irish background, and identify strongly with my native ancestors and contemporary Native Americans. My spouse is of African descent. You ask what to people of color think of all this, it is importannt to specify that it is People of Color in the UUA that have identified internalized racism as the major obstactle to feeling welcome and included in the UU congregagations.

    I can understand your reaction to the many workshops at GA…but most of them were the youth trying to set up training for youth at a convenient time…there were lots of youth of color at GA

    Not only white folk need anti racist training btw, just as anti sexism would not only be for men. People of color internalize the racist stereotypes that society teaches us all….it is called shaming.

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