The UUA Board is Trying Again to Eliminate the Commission on Appraisal. Don’t Let Them Do It.

Well…..they’re at it again. There’s a new push to eliminate the Commission on Appraisal. The last time this was tried was a little over 5 years ago, and at that time they were also trying to eliminate the GA Planning Committee too. This time, it’s just the CoA by itself.

To those who know me really well, they know that I’m a big fan of independent investigative entities that are not answerable to the powers-that-be but to a larger body.

As the CoA is one of the few committees explicitly named in the UUA by-laws, I think it would behoove everybody to know what their function is:

Section 5.8. Commission on Appraisal.

The Commission on Appraisal shall consist of nine elected members. A member shall not during the term of office serve as a trustee or officer or hold a salaried position in the Association. The Commission on Appraisal shall:

  1. review any function or activity of the Association which in its judgment will benefit from an independent review and report its conclusions to a regular General Assembly;
  2. study and suggest approaches to issues which may be of concern to the Association; and
  3. report to a regular General Assembly at least once every four years on the program and accomplishments of the Association.

When it comes to power, there are 2 axioms to live by.

1. “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

2. “Who will guard the guardians?”

In UUA terms, the Commission on Appraisal is the entity set aside to guard the guardians. This move to eliminate the CoA is a bad sign that power does not want a group that is not answerable to them to be able to investigate anything they wish.

If the CoA is eliminated, who will guard the guardians?

Not ‘At Risk’ But ‘In Risk’ (or Why #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter Are Not The Same)

Amy Hunter, who is the Racial Justice Coordinator for the YWCA here in St. Louis posted a tweet a few days ago that quoted Dr. Norm White, which said:

Children are not at risk they are in risk. Risk is all around them. This is about race [not poverty]

As the news that two young women (one Latina, one white) have been killed at the hands of agents of the state in the last few days hit the media, there is a growing call to stop saying #BlackLivesMatter and instead really talk about #AllLivesMatter.

I understand the impulse to change the conversation away from #BlackLivesMatter. I do. There is no doubt that there needs to be a hard look at the abuses of police power generally. But at some point, we have to look at the facts.

In encounters with the police, African Americans are 21 (I repeat 21) times more likely to be shot. Don’t want to believe that, read Charles Blow’s column from Monday here.

In the almost 700,000 stops-and-frisks that were performed in NYC in 2012 (the number presented to the federal court was 688,xxx), 88% of those stops were of blacks and Latinos, 12% white. In all of those stops, contraband was found less than 10% of the time, and of that percentage contraband was found on whites the majority of the time. Don’t want to believe that, go to the New York Civil Liberties Union website to get all the information.

Blacks are 4 times more likely to be arrested for possession than whites (Latinos are twice as likely), even though usage rates are about the same.

And those numbers are just about men. The numbers when you compare black, Latina, and white women are even more dramatic.

At some point there does need to be the recognition by white people in America that in most cases, race trumps class.

As someone who has been involved with the criminal justice-/prison-/drug law- reform movement since I was 17, I know that there are class differences and issues in how laws are enforced. However that does not change the facts that, regardless of class:

-African Americans and Latinos are detained more often than whites for the same crime/infraction or alleged crime/infraction

-African Americans and Latinos are detained at a younger age than whites (whether or not a crime has been committed or alleged to be committed) [read The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children]

-African Americans and Latinos receive harsher treatment while in detention

-African Americans and Latinos are charged more often than whites for the same crimes/infractions

-African American and Latino children are more likely to charged as adults than white children [see The Essence of Innocence]

-African Americans and Latinos are more likely to receive higher-level charges than whites for the same crime/infraction

-African Americans and Latinos are more likely to receive harsher sentences/penalties than whites when convicted of the same crime/infraction

-African Americans and Latinos are more likely to receive harsher treatment while in jail/prison

These are the facts.

Someday in the distant future, we as a nation might be able to say #AllLivesMatter, but it’s not right now.

The killing of unarmed civilians by agents of the state is always tragic. However, let’s be real; if this were happening in any white community every 28 hours on average, there is no way that white people would let racial minorities co-opt their movement by saying–in essence–“yeah, it’s a shame what’s happening to you, but that’s not as important as these cases where it happened to us too.” I might have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night.

Right now it’s #BlackLivesMatter because, when it comes to law enforcement and criminal justice, far too often we don’t. We can talk about #alllivesmatter when they actually do.

Just When I Thought UUs Couldn’t Disappoint Me More……

Let’s be very clear about what happened in relation to Starr King.

Because they did not like the result of the Presidential search, a person or persons/cabal decided to show their ass and release confidential things related to the search to journalists in order to imply that the person who was presented by the Search Committee, Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, was less qualified and the affirmative action candidate.

So while there are calls for justice in relation to the two students, I hope that those who are calling for that justice are also doing all they can to support the person who was viciously maligned in the process.

But I already know that I’m asking for too much.

Yes…Some UUs Were In Selma. And? What Have UU Done For Me Lately?

I was trying to stay out of the ‘Selma’ conversation that’s going on on Facebook. And so far, I’m doing good. But…I’m seeing this recurring theme in a number of the comments. It says “why didn’t the movie say that James Reeb was an Unitarian minister instead of just a priest?”

This is another instance where I get it. I really do. Selma is the one–if not completely bright spot, the brightest spot–in U/U/UU history with regards to race. So I can understand the impulse to want recognition of the fact that James Reeb was an Unitarian minister.

Now the angry black woman has a question. Yes…James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo were in Selma and died because of it. And? Does the story always have to be about white people?

But let’s look at this on a larger scale….have you, my good UU friends, made so much of the Selma moment because our history–before and since–is just plain awful? Especially for a group that likes to think of itself as progressive.

Yes…some Uni-s and Uni-s (as Diana Eck has been known to call us)were in Selma…but what have Uni-Unis done lately?

Which side were most Uni-Unis on during the Boston Busing Riots?

Which side were most Uni-Unis on when northern school districts were being sued over segregation?

How many Uni-Unis fled neighborhoods when a few too many black families moved in? (yeah, y’all participated in white flight too. don’t front.)

How many Uni-Unis didn’t really see a problem in the fact that blacks and Latinos got rounded up in the War on Drugs, even though people of color and whites use drugs at roughly the same rate?

How many Uni-Unis saw how police routinely use force with people of color more readily than with whites and excused it as a figment of people of color’s imagination? Or said that we were paranoid?

So go ahead, self congratulate on Selma all you want, but as Janet Jackson sang, “What have you done for me lately?” [My asking that question does in no way diminish what I feel for the St. Louis area UUs and the area ministers who are out there doing the work.]

more later. maybe.