Beyond Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter activists continue to direct our attention towards black people, especially teenagers and young men, being shot by police. The latest story of the acquittal of former Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby for her shooting of Terence Crutcher reinforces the sense that justice will not be done in such cases. By the time you read this, another case, sadly, may have caught our attention. They have become part of the landscape of our lives.

In the meantime, our own religious association (the Unitarian Universalist Association) struggles with more subtle and less violent manifestations of the persistence of racism. Hiring processes brought the issue to light, but it hits every aspect of organizational life. UUA leaders are establishing a Commission on Institutional Change to help make a transition to a new future we cannot yet imagine. They want to use a truth and reconciliation approach to examine the events that led to the recent crisis in the association. Addressing structural racism and issues of equity will take much more, though. Our three interim co-presidents (Rev. Bill Sinkford, Rev. Sofia Bettencourt and Dr. Leon Spencer) had this to say about a recent consultation that helped shape what the Commission on Institutional Change will be and do:

We found ourselves looking for a Universalism that points toward transformation. We engaged this moment as an opportunity to redeem a piece of the history of our faith and to serve as a model of love and justice to the broader world. We focused on questions of power, liberation, leadership, and recentering those pushed to the margins. We unflinchingly questioned cultural habits and norms that hamper us in our yearning to build the Beloved Community. [from a UUA News Alert]

What would it mean to take this approach, this rigorous self-examination, in our own organization, in our own lives? How do we move from being a fellowship centering ourselves to an organization that fully engages with the liberation of people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and others who find themselves marginalized in our culture? Can we “unflinchingly question cultural habits and norms that hamper us in our yearning to build the Beloved Community”? To fully live out Unitarian Universalist values in the coming years will require demanding personal, interpersonal, and institutional transformative work.

What is your place in it?

In faith and freedom,

Jonalu

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