Feb. 4, 2019.
A week ago, we held a conference at UUCF that was motivated in part by the struggle Unitarian Universalist congregations have been having with the use of the words “white supremacy” in relation to the cultural systems in which we in the U.S. swim. It has been a difficult subject in our congregations and in the country, but it reflects the inherent privilege built into the culture of this country before and since the U.S. Constitution codified it in Article 1, Section 2: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States, which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”
Now we face one more in an endless series of examples of how this original sin of racism still infects us: the revelation of racist photos in the Virginia governor’s medical school yearbook. This is just another instance of white maleness being able to operate with impunity throughout most of history. Whether it’s racist pictures or the sexual assault of young women by young men from elite religious schools, systems of white supremacy that preference and excuse these behaviors are now finding their way into the public consciousness with some new hope of accountability and change.
There is no quick-fix medicine for this illness, no pill we can take that will wipe the infection from our lives. This is a long-term struggle against an insidious disease.
I still believe one of the more useful treatments for this disease can be the practice of the Unitarian Universalist faith – a faith that calls us into right relationship with what is in us, between us and beyond us. This is no easy task. It is difficult. We will fail. We will fall prey to the perils of anger and frustration. We will not always be our best selves. That is why it is a practice, and why this nation must also practice being its best self, called into relationships of mutual support and accountability.
Each time a racist incident comes to light, there will be statements that reek of hypocrisy and political gamesmanship. If we practice what we preach, we will reflect on our reactions, live our faith to the best of our ability and do what we can to hold each other accountable as we work for relationships steeped in justice, equality, respect and dignity.