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]


One thought on “Can People of Color Truly Be Safe in UU Congregations?

  1. Kim, I often don’t answer your posts because, frankly, I feel like I don’t have standing anywhere in the conversation, being as I am a “privileged” person, and undoubtedly a blundering one too. It breaks my heart to consider how we all treat each other. But I have to speak up on the topic of people not “considering” how you feel about police abuse of people of color. First of all, I only ask that question of people I don’t know well, because I assume that my friends are as horrified, dismayed, and frightened as I am. Secondly, I’m afraid if I ask my friends of color how THEY feel, it will seem like I’m assuming that they are somehow peculiar in that regard….. Barbara Merritt once told me that all Unitarians are Stoics. Let me tell you a story. My daughter, who lost a five year old son (twenty years ago), is having a rough time missing her son who just went off to the Coast Guard Academy and is kept out of contact for a couple of months. I finally cranked up my courage to remind her that she had scars in the area of losing children, and that that was making it harder for her….. . I was embarrassed to be so intrusive….. but it seems that she was relieved to have that pointed out! So what I’m trying to say is, that what you feel as neglect, may be shyness and Yankee Stoicism. Doesn’t address the multitude of other injuries, but it might help with the chilly UUs. I love you, Kim!

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