Shallow Diversity Is Not Diversity At All

One of the things you learn when you hang out with religious professionals is that no matter the religious affiliation, denomination, or theological stripe of the religious professional, the same kinds of situations pop up in congregations. [yes, I’m talking about congregationally-based religious professionals, not community-based ones]

So….I talked to a friend of mine earlier today about something that happened at a retreat with their vestry/worship committee/worship associates to plot out their year. Things were going well until the group hit THAT Sunday. You know what Sunday if you really think about it. That’s right….things went well until they came up on MLK Jr. Sunday. Soon as my friend told me what Sunday, I had to take a deep breath because I have heard this same story multiple times.

“We need to find somebody black to preach on MLK Sunday.” Many vestrys/worship committees/worship associates have said the same thing.

Here’s the question: Why?

Why did part of this group feel that they HAD to have somebody of African descent be the guest speaker on that Sunday? Why not have a Black speaker on the third Sunday of April? Why MLK Sunday?

And for those of us who have a little more planning room when it comes to worship, why is the only time there is some diversity in the readings on special Sundays  [MLK, Pride, etc.]?

Shallow diversity is not diversity at all, my friends. It’s tokenism. And no member of a marginalized community wants to be a token.

To quote my friend who told me the age-old story today, “for those who think it might be a great idea to “find a black person to preach on MLK Sunday,” but never think to diversify their list of guest preachers otherwise, we pray.”

Lord, hear our prayer.

Race, Theology, Sociology, and History Reading Group (#BlackLivesMatter)

With all that’s been going on, I’m feeling the need to read (and in some cases re-read)  a lot of books related to race and its intersections with theology, sociology, and history. So I thought I would invite readers of the blog to join me if they want to.

I’m developing a growing list that will move and change depending on what strikes my fancy. I might also add other areas of intersection (like education), but I’m going to stay in the lanes that I move in the most often. And there will be some fiction thrown in (especially if we’re talking about race and history).

The first two books that I will read are going to be “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God” by theologian Kelly Brown Douglas and “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange [this will be a re-read for me]

I’ll start reading on Sept. 1. And write as I go along. You are welcome to join me.

Were Y’all Always This Clueless? Or Is This Willful Ignorance?

On Monday night, Michelle Obama gave her speech at the Democratic National Convention. I didn’t watch the speech, as I am not watching the convention. But I did see clips of it afterward.

The big point that has been talked about since that speech has been when Michelle pointed out that she lives in a house that slaves built.

Was this news to white people? Because there can be no other explanation for so many media outlets AND Smithsonian Magazine to “fact check” that line.



SLAVES BUILT MOST OF WASHINGTON, D.C.!  (the old part of it)

How is this news?!!?!??!

In a country where 12 of the first 16 Presidents either OWNED slaves or had other, deep ties to slavery, why did media outlets feel the need to fact-check Michelle Obama’s statement of that? I do not understand this.

Were y’all always this clueless? Or is this yet another example willful ignorance?

Can People of Color Truly Be Safe in UU Congregations?

Situation #1

There was a memorial service for someone I knew at a UU congregation last Sunday. I knew the officiant for the service, and had emailed them earlier to let them know I was going to be at the service and if they needed anything to let me know. As I had made the offer, I arrived at the building an hour or so beforehand. After coming out of the restroom, another person of color (somebody I’ve known for a long time)  looked at me and started crying. She came over to me and said, “I’m so glad you’re here. You have no idea how hard it’s been coming to church these past two weeks.” When I asked her what she meant, she began to describe the conversations that had been going on in her congregation in the wake of the Sterling, Castile, and Dallas shootings and the Baton Rouge shooting that had happened just that morning. Being one of the few people of color in this congregation (it used to have more, but doesn’t now), she has been feeling as if she had to answer for the Dallas and Baton Rouge shootings, but nobody took time or seemed to care about how she might be feeling about the Sterling or Castile shootings. She’s now wondering how often she can go to her congregation.

Situation #2

Somebody who I admire greatly is a staff member at a UU congregation. Not long before GA, this person relayed a story of how they (and others involved in the congregation–lay and ordained) received a diatribe email that complained about the congregation being involved with anything related to BlackLivesMatter. The diatribe ended with the person who wrote it calling staff members “people of SOME color.” (emphasis mine)

I’ve been thinking about safety a lot for the past year, for many reasons. (some of you might have heard me talk about this at GA) These two situations bring those thoughts into much clearer focus.

In a denomination that is as white as Unitarian Universalism is, can people of color really be safe in our congregations?

What do we mean when we talk about “safe” congregations? [yes, I know that’s about sexual exploitation and abuse, but work with me here]

I’ll Skip the “National Conversation on Race.” I Have Better Things to Do. (#BlackLivesMatter)

In every interview I’ve seen with her, the FIRST question Philando Castile’s mother gets asked is about Dallas. Nobody in Dallas gets asked about Philando Castile or Alton Sterling first.

But the events of the last week has the white political and commentary classes now saying that we need to have a “national conversation on race [or about race relations]”.

I’ll skip this conversation, thanks. I have better things to do. Like bite my nails and flip through the Woman Within catalog that arrived in the mail Monday.

listen up my white, liberal friends. America has been having a “national conversation on race” for 397 years now. And black humanity is STILL up for debate.  There is no conversation to be had while my–and my people’s–humanity is up for debate; at least not for me.

As long as Philando Castile’s mother is asked about Dallas first when nobody in Dallas is asked about Philando Castile first, miss me with talk of a national conversation.

As long as Dr. King is trotted out to get black people to shut up and stop complaining, miss me with talk of a national conversation.

As long as so many white people continue to search for some reason to say that [Eric Garner/Mike Brown/Tamir Rice/John Crawford/Walter Scott/Freddie Gray/Sandra Bland/Alton Sterling/Philando Castile] did something to deserve the fate they met, miss me with talk of a national conversation.

As long as the “it’s class, not race” people continue to ignore the fact that poor whites are not policed the same as middle-class blacks, miss me with talk of a national conversation.

I have better things to do.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Hagar. A Meditation on the Past 28 Hours (#BlackLivesMatter)

Are you there God? It’s me, Hagar.

Wasn’t it enough that Sarai gave me to Abram so he could have a child?

That when I tried to get away YOU told me to go back?

So I go back. And endure.


And Ishmael is born.

I have a reason to endure.

But then came Isaac.

And my Ishmael became a threat.

Abram put my child on my back and sent us out  into the wilderness.

We have been in the wilderness ever since.

And my Ishmael is still considered a threat.

No matter what he does.

YOU said that YOU would make a great nation of my Ishmael.

Are YOU there God?

Isaac’s nation is killing us.

Are YOU there God?

I’m tired of looking at the death of my child.

Are YOU there God?

Are YOU there?

UUs…We Don’t Need Another “National Conversation On Race”

So the Commission on Social Witness announced that one of the four proposed Congregational Study/Action Issues that will be voted on at General Assembly in June is “A National Conversation On Race”.

oh Sweet Creole Jesus! Not again!

Listen up my white liberal friends. America needs another “national conversation on race” about as much as the country needs to start another military conflict in the Near East. What America needs to have is a conversation about WHITE SUPREMACY.

American religious groups (including liberal ones, and especially Unitarianism and Universalism) need to have a conversation about how they, for most of their history in this country, have propped up WHITE SUPREMACY. American religious groups need to have a conversation about how they going to use their theologies in order to dismantle WHITE SUPREMACY.

Having a “national conversation on race” continues to place the onus of change on those have been oppressed by state power and does nothing about the system of WHITE SUPREMACY that will stay in place after that national conversation is over.

One last thing….please, for the love of God and all that is holy, do not post comments/email me/call me/text me/etc. saying that race is more than black and white or that race is a social construct. I am so done with that white liberal/progressive bullsh*t that I don’t know how to tell you how tired of it I am.  So just don’t.

Flint Is Being Lead Poisoned. Has the UUA Reached Out to the UUs In Flint?

A man-made disaster is occurring in Flint, Michigan. The people of that city are being lead poisoned because of a decision made to switch where Flint got its water from. Because of that decision, the people of Flint have to get drinking water in a catch-as-catch-can way.

I criticize UUA public statements quite often. I won’t do that here. No…I am going to be much more critical of UUA action.

If there is anything that a religious people who are named after two Christian theologies should be doing it’s using some of its money to get fresh water to the people of Flint. The UUA should be calling out other religious groups to get them to use some of their money to get fresh water to the people of Flint. The UUA and other religious groups should be calling for a coordinated national response to get the people of Flint fresh water.

God is calling us, people. Time to answer that call.

Flint is being lead poisoned. What sayeth the UUA?

What Black People Were Told Today–Holy Innocents Day (#BlackLivesMatter)

Just a few minutes ago, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty announced the Grand Jury’s no-true-bill in the case of Tamir Rice.

Today is also Holy Innocents Day on the liturgical calendar.

Well…black America got told again today…you are NEVER innocent.

Zora Neale Hurston said, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.”

Black people are being killed by agents of the state at an alarming rate. And time and again we are told that it is our own fault; that we are never worthy of protection under the law. We are never holy innocents.

So listen up my liberal religious friends. Do NOT talk about “now is the time to heal.” Do NOT weep white tears and tell black people that you are just heartbroken by all of this. Just don’t.

13 months ago Tamir Rice was minding his own business playing in a park. But, because he was black, he is now dead. And the state took his life away then turned around and said that nobody was responsible.

What a message for Holy Innocents Day.