From the Minister, Thu Jan 11

White fragility is a condition of white supremacists like Richard Spencer, David Duke, and those people who marched in Charlottesville with tiki torches to defend confederate monuments. Not us Unitarian Universalists. Right?

Well, speaking just for myself, I am complicit, and sometimes I do have a defensive reaction about that. On the other hand, in a lot of ways we Unitarian Universalists also have a good head start to build on.

We aren’t reactive against people of color in positions of leadership – we don’t have a presumption of white authority that that challenges. Nor do we presume white centrality -- we go to and enjoy movies in which people of color drive the action but are not in stereotypical roles.

We understand that group membership is a significant part of who one is, and we acknowledge that access to jobs, housing, and education remains unequal between racial groups.

It doesn’t bother us when a fellow white person declines to provide agreement with our own racial perspective. We hold no expectation of white solidarity.

We are glad to get feedback about any behavior of ours that might have a racist impact, regardless of intent. We don’t cling to a cherished notion of white racial innocence, and we understand the concept of negligence: that a person can be blameworthy for harm done even if they don’t intend any harm. A swimming pool owner doesn’t intend for the neighbor’s kid to drown in it, but absence of intent to harm isn’t enough. They’ve got to take positive action to make sure the harm doesn’t happen – put up a high wall around the pool. We understand our obligation to learn what words and actions are hurtful and avoid them because we know it’s not enough to intend no harm. We exercise due diligence to avoid unwittingly doing harm. This diligence includes actively seeking out and reading essays and stories by people of color so that we better grasp what harmful impacts we might have regardless of our intent.

We also appreciate hearing people of color talk directly about their own racial perspectives. At the same time, we don’t demand that people of color tell their stories and answer questions about their racial experiences, because that would be expecting people of color to serve white people.

We aren’t bent out of shape by the suggestion that our viewpoint comes from a racialized frame of reference. We aren’t reactive about such challenges to our objectivity.


Well, yes. That is right — mostly. I like that about us. We Unitarian Universalists do pretty much understand those things. We’ve got some work to do – I have some work to do – to understand some of those things more fully and to grow further less reactive to certain challenges, to grow less complicit in sustaining the systems of our white privilege. But from what I see – and I know my vision has a racial bias and isn’t entirely trustworthy, but from what I see – we’re well ahead of the curve of white Americans generally.

Our faith, then, calls us to do two things: continue our own work and get ourselves even farther ahead of the curve, learn more, become even more racially resilient and even less reactive, less complicit, even better allies of people of color. Second, our faith calls us, as our congregation’s vision statement says, to be a sanctuary without walls that promotes diversity. Outside of these walls, we can do a better job of challenging the presumptions that are still too prevalent in our country at large – presumptions of white centrality, white authority, white innocence, and white objectivity. Unitarian Universalism IS a force doing that in the world – AND we can do it more.

Keep up the good work!

Check These Out!
  • The Common Reads for 2017-18 (yes, there are TWO): HERE
  • Statement of Conscience: Escalating Economic Inequity. Read the statement: HERE. Do you agree with all of it? Or would you amend, delete, or add parts? Please leave a comment HERE.
  • On the Journey: the January issue explores Resilience. Pick up a copy at CUUC, or view it HERE.
Let's Chat

The TCC (Tuesday Coffee Chat) was off on Jan 9 and resumes on Jan 16. The TCC takes me to a coffee shop (almost) every Tuesday from 3-5pm -- for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • Jan: The Cafe inside the Barnes and Noble at Vernon Hills Shopping Center, 680 White Plains Rd, Eastchester
  • Feb: The TCC comes to Irvington! Specific location TBA.
Drop by if you can! You can also make an appointment to see me at CUUC, or invite me to visit your home. Call Pam at the church office (914-946-1660) to schedule either.

New on The Liberal Pulpit

New posts include part 2 of the "Embodiment" sermon:

And the first in a projected series of posts reflecting on the essays in the Common Read book, Centering

Index, with links, of past sermons: HERE.
Index, with links, of other reflections: HERE.

Practice of the Week

Face Ecological Reality. The first big step on the spiritual journey ahead is to come face-to-face with the truth of our ecological problems. This shifts our perspective and priorities, but it can be painful. Just as the loss of a single field caused my children to grieve, when we fully grasp what we as a species have done to our only home it can be heart-wrenching. If you are not crying a few tears or losing some sleep over these issues then you haven’t truly faced them. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Veneration and Worship. Not both. Not neither. Exactly one. Pick one -- or one picks you. Do you look up or down?

Woodpecker said, "I'm like Owl, still thinking about our visit to the Little Church in the Grotto. I wonder, what's the difference between veneration and worship?"
Raven said, "One makes your tummy warm, the other doesn't."
Woodpecker asked, "Which is which?"
Raven said, "Not my business."
I worship as an intransitive verb.
I venerate transitively.
Everything is one thing;
Every thing is another.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

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