Dec. 17, 2018.
I recently sat on a beach contemplating the sand. So many varied forms of life and earth – spectacular shells, sturdy bones, even mighty boulders transformed into fragments of sand. The sand is a unified form of these varied creatures and stones. It has beauty, yet each of its elements has a story, a unique and vital history that brought it there.
The sand is symbolic of our shared fate. We all eventually return to the earth and the stars. If our fates are ultimately tied to unity, what’s the rush? For me, the mystery, the wonder and the beauty of existence lies in what happens before the crush of unity.
What does nature’s lesson have to do with our community? A couple weeks ago, I facilitated a documentary showing and discussion about the 1969 walkout and Black empowerment tragedy in Unitarian Universalism (watch the documentary free). In the middle of this tragedy sat the Black UU Caucus, which called for a space for Black UUs to have autonomy to develop their mission within Unitarian Universalism. So many of the arguments against this were about white UUs wanting to know what the Black Caucus was doing, and wanting control over it. This was also in an era of national emphasis on color-blindness – everyone being the same.
But color-blindness and control are about a special kind of unity – one in which those with power choose what unity looks like. Those who don’t fit the ideal of unity are demoralized.
Tragically, the movement for Black empowerment was dismantled by a lack of institutional support. Yet, despite this challenging history, here we are in 2018 with a vibrant opportunity through groups like Black Lives UU and people of color leading throughout the denomination.
We are finally poised to live into our values around racial equity and diversity. Part of living into this means examining structures of white supremacy embedded in our lives and exploring our personal racial and ethnic identities. This is all about expanding differences – every one of us brings unique racial and cultural identities, histories and perspectives to our faith.
As we grow into new ways of engaging around race, let us keep nature’s lesson in mind: Don’t rush to unity; there is wonder in difference. When you encounter a different history, a different cultural or racial perspective, I invite you not to rush to know all the details, not to break it all down into little bits of common human experience. Of course we share similarities – we are all human! Instead of rushing to unity, I invite you to witness difference with awe, and ask what is now possible because you are in relationship with someone who brings a different history or perspective. Perhaps they can grow, perhaps you can, perhaps we all will.
Blessings on our shared journey and on our many different paths.