Anything I can do, We can do better…

“We think that honesty and living in truth are better ways to live than propaganda and denial and comforting stories.” –Tom Schade, “Religious Community is Not Enough: Unitarian Universalism’s purpose is much bigger than gathering with like-minded people for mutual support,” UU World Winter 2013.

Earlier this year the Board members of the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal voted unanimously to attend an Undoing Racism training offered by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. While most of the members of the Board consider themselves anti-racist, we are stretching into what it would take to intentionally shape the Center to be an anti-racist institution. A primarily interpersonal understanding of racism limits our collective ability to address institutional, internalized, and ideological racism. With support from the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, the entire Board registered for the November Regional Training in New Orleans.

Beloveds, it is not enough to send off one or two of a congregation’s more social justice-y members to a training and consider the work of anti-racism done. It isn’t even enough to go through a congregation-wide training – once. This system of inequity, so deeply in the bones of our country’s constitution that you can take white people out of leadership and have the system continue to provide a preferential option for whites, requires a diligent commitment to undo.

One white member of the Center’s Board was attending this training for the “umpteenth time” since beginning to attend in the 1980’s and was clear that she would keep coming back. What has been done to us as a nation is a powerful, hypnotic thing. It lets me think, as a white woman, “I worked hard for what I have” and not even begin to reflect on how hard my neighbors of color have worked to have not even half as much.

It is hard to express my gratitude to the members of the Center’s Board for showing up for the training, day after day, for an exercise in living in truth, unpacking and confronting propaganda and denial. And doing it together. While I have attended multiple-trainings as an individual, this is the first one I have attended as an intentional member of a collective – and I experienced this training profoundly differently than the ones before. Instead of getting stuck on my own abilities (and lack thereof), I was able to think about the resources and structures of the organization I was a part of – and this has sent me back into the world with energy and hope.

The strongly individualistic (white) values of this nation will not serve us in the task of undoing the structures of oppression. Dismantling systems of oppression is collective work, friends. Find your collective. It is not enough to be a lone crusader in the work of undoing racism. This position only enforces the structure of isolation, designed to prevent collective organizing. If this is your position, look around. You are not alone. All of our lives are diminished by the structures of racism.

Organize, beloveds. The work will not be done perfectly, but together, we can begin to heal that which is profoundly broken.

  • Eileen Raymond

    This post’s title says it all… as the African principle of Ubuntu says, “I am because you are,” or “a person is a person though others.” We are so much more together, we are powerful beyond measure, we can change the world… TOGETHER!

    • Cranky Steven

      Usually such statements are a veiled warning to keep your hand on your wallet so it doesn’t get stolen.

    • Cranky Steven

      Sure we can. We just don’t. The structure is toppling and I say good riddance.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Parenting partnerships seem to be what is most lacking. So many of we whites were nurtured by women of color, and so many of our parents underpaid them and their men of color, that we could simply see it as our own ways to honor the people that unequally “partnered” with our own privileged parents.

    I would like white parents to form “dual dad” and “other mother” efforts to address the issues of racism that plague the youth and the families of color in our country. Those with resources could agree to stand with those who have less privilege in a “buddy system.”

    My son has done this for his black neighbor in Mississippi when the man’s white wife disappeared with his children. He stood with him when the police were called in order to protect his neighbor from the possible racism of the police in his community.

    My daughter has done this in her positions as Girls Scout and church youth leader, ministering alongside the mother of a child of color.

    It also wouldn’t hurt to pay every person who we each hire a living wage and benefits. I don’t think anyone can support a family on less than $15/hour, in any part of the United States.That’s $600/week. Many make more than that per hour. Think about it.

    • Cranky Steven

      Your parents may have been privileged, mine were not. My parents worked their butts off for every cent they earned.
      I was not raised by a person of color but by my parents. Have you ever considered that your parents actually earned their money or did they inherit it all? You may be fine with homosexual parents but many cultures, including blacks, are not. You may be in a position to hire “help” but I am not and I don’t earn anywhere near enough to pay someone to do what I should be doing for $15.00 an hour.

      • Y. A. Warren

        My father worked his butt off to obtain a Master’s degree and worked his butt off during and after obtaining the degree. My mother was often bed-ridden with pregnancy and illnesses caused by childbirth. They lived far from family and did hire help for the care of the home and children. My mother was not kind to the help.

        You are entitled to do your own work, but if you hire someone, it should be at a living wage. Money is a method of barter for services rendered.

        “Dual dads” and “other mothers” has nothing to do with homosexuality, in this context. The terms have to do with teaming up to share caring for each others’ children.

        • Cranky Steven

          No one is forced to work for wages that are unliveable. It is a choice. You can consign your children to be raised by others if you wish to. I did not and would not. Maybe the state can do a better job than you.

  • Cranky Steven

    Soooo, preferential treatment of folks is not racism as long as it is black folks being preferred. Interesting.

  • nanomanoman

    I left quite a long comment (so not like me) here but either the system crashed or it simply was not posted.

    To summarise – this article smacks of Maoist self-criticism. The issue isn’t race – it’s class – and the middle class just use race as a way to avoid confronting their own role in exploiting all people from poorer backgrounds, be they black, white or hispanic. The US, like many western countries, prefers to pretend class is history and focus on fringe issues pretending the problem is racial discrimination as a way of avoiding the true structural challenges.

    Sure America has huge issues with race, but these should not be used to distract from the age-old struggle over social mobility. You can’t change a person’s skin but you can improve their opportunities in life – only then it begins to threaten your own place on the pile. I forget the rest, I’m sure it was very profound, but now, well, it’s lost to posterity.