What time is it? Good question. One of the side effects of my cerebral palsy is that I have trouble telling distances apart. One example of this is clocks with analog faces. The short hand is the hour. The long hand is…count by five…the minutes. But when I look at it, I can never tell. Fortunately for us, the time is now. The time is now to show up in opposition to anti-blackness, to the murder of black men, women and children. Black lives matter.
Here’s a question I get: “But, Theresa, don’t all lives matter?”
Excellent question, friend. (Sidenote: I need you not to bring this question to black people. They are busy feeling their own grief and healing, as they can, their own communities.) It is important for me to say very clearly and very often that black lives matter. An unarmed black person has been killed in this country approximately every two weeks for the past six months. This is not true of other groups and peoples of color in the same way. It is as though the fact that black lives matter has been reduced by the actual practice of a gun fatality decided in split seconds. They only sort of matter. Matter a little bit. No, no, no. Black lives matter. It is our duty to speak up and say the truth: black lives matter.
Recently, someone responded to my assertion that black lives matter with the idea that they thought I was just saying that because it was timely. It may be, but when people take to the streets and organize ways to assert that black lives matter, it is my opportunity to add my voice of witness. I can’t think that the criticism that it is timely participation has the potential to disempower me too much. It is an opportunity to examine my own participation in a racist system and to ask people around me to examine theirs.
It’s time for you to think and talk about racism in all it’s forms, including structural racism.
On an individual level, most people have dealt with racism and know how to avoid racist actions. It’s time for us to look at the structures that keep white power and culture intact. Unitarian Universalism must, at some point, do the work of liberating itself. What are the policies that keep whiteness intact? Here are a few examples, of which my friend Elizabeth offers the first two:
- Requiring that a person have skill with and use Robert’s Rule of Order in order to have a chance to speak or to be taken seriously.
- No childcare or food at the meetings. These would not be for fun and their social purposes, but for expediency.
- Requiring job applicants to check a box that says, “Yes” or “No” about whether or not they have been convicted of a crime. Banning the practice of checking that box would allow all people to have a chance for a call back.
If we want whiteness to be dismantled we have to think and talk about the almost unseen way that things are governed by policy.
Fighting racism, especially on a structural level isn’t about being nicer or seeing more peoples of specific colors in our organizations.
It’s about reckoning with the ways that the way organizations reinforce that white people are the people who hold power and others, peoples of color, may participate with them at the discretion or accommodation of those in power. What would happen if we came together across cultures and colors, conscious of how power works with the explicit goal of hearing from a spectrum of voices, not just the in-group and conscious of finding ways to make representative decisions for everyone involved? How would that look different from how power is distributed and reinforced now?
I’m willing to leave this question open-ended and unanswered. It requires of you to ask yourself how you fit into the structure of racism. How do you benefit from it, if you do? How can you transform it? It’s time for us to ask ourselves these questions and engage in a, “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” The time is now.