The Past Is Not Dead. It Isn’t Even Past. …A Question for the UUA Presidential Candidates

Susan. Alison. Jeanne.

It was good to see the three of you in New Orleans. I appreciate the time you got to spend with us at the BLUU Convening. Even more, I am glad you got to hear questions that in another setting might not have been asked. (yes, the Ferguson question was mine and I would not ask it at the upcoming MidAmerica Region meeting for a number of reasons)

Anyway…..

Toni Morrison, in her work (both fiction and non-fiction), has talked about “active dis-remembering”. I would like to explore that with you.

When we (the collective we) talk about our U/U/UU ancestors, most UUs think about the Transcendentalists. Nothing against Emerson, Thoreau, or the Peabody sisters, but if our picturing of ourselves is that limited, is it really any wonder that we are stuck in a morass when it comes to racial justice?

But along with that, there does seem to be an active dis-remembering when it comes to the transmission of our history as it relates to racial/ethnic justice and the journey we’ve been on. Many UUs, if not most, know about Rev. James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo. Yet many, if not most, have no idea Whitney Young was one of us. That Henry Hampton worked for the UUA. Have no idea about the Universalist church pastored by the Joseph Jordans.

I do, however, understand the impulse to paint the picture rosy. To make it seem as if our history has more James Reebs in it than Frederick May Eliots. But the reality is, however, Frederick May Eliot had power; James Reeb didn’t.

Faulkner said, “the past is not dead. it isn’t even past.” Which is why I pointed out that Frederick May Eliot had power and James Reeb didn’t.

There are processes in place that probably date back to Eliot’s time as head of the AUA. I’m sure they have be tweaked some, but basic bones of them are still there. To put it nicely, Frederick May Eliot was no friend. Those processes make it extremely easy for the organization to actively dis-remember the great cloud of witnesses of our history.

So…here’s the question (I know, that was a long lead-up)…what do you see as the UUA’s role in presenting a more complete and honest history of the journey towards wholeness?

I do have another question for the three of you, but that will be in another post.

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Not Everything That Is Faced Can Be Changed, But Nothing Can Be Changed Until It Is Faced…A Short Open Letter to Rev. Peter Morales

“People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.” –Bro. Jimmy (aka James Baldwin)

Dear Rev. Morales,
I am stupefied at your response, in both the letter sent out to UUA staff and in quotes reported in UU World, to the discussion that has arisen in light of recent hiring decisions.

You are quoted in UU World as saying, “What bothers me is the characterization of the UUA as a ‘white supremacist’ organization,…If you call us that, what do you call Aryan Nation?”

You and I have both studied UUA history, as well as history of its parent organizations–the AUA and the UCA. In that history is the case of E. Ethelred Brown. Shall we talk about how he was treated? So, with that history out there, I wonder why you are confused as to the UUA being labeled a white supremacist organization. Surely you are not that naive. You do know that white supremacy is not just the Klan and Aryan Nation, right?

In your letter to UUA staff you write, “Since the UUA has made the hiring decisions there have been 14 hires in Congregational Life. Of those 14, six have been people of color.”

I think it is important to point out there are two regions that are completely white when it comes to Congregational Life staff. I will further point out one of those regions has the city of Boston in it. The other region has the cities of Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and Minneapolis. That’s right, the region with 4 of the cities that have had major racial justice incidents in the past 2.5 years are all in a region served by a totally white Congregational Life staff. I digress….

You further say, “At the UUA staff overall, we have gone from 14 percent of color in 2008 to 20 percent today. At the level of managers, we have gone from 12 people of color (5 percent) to 19 (9 percent).”

The administration’s own Ends Monitoring Report from April, 2016 shows that the growth of people of color is in the areas labeled “Service”, “Sales”, or “Administrative Support”. This is the why of white supremacy; using people of color for their labor in areas where the decisions/policy aren’t made.

As a Christian, one of the most important things I believe in is the power of repentance. From what I can tell, the UUA has never repented for its treatment of E. Ethelred Brown. Over the course of the past days, your letter and comments have shown me that the UUA is still not ready to repent for its actions related to racial/ethnic justice. That is a shame.

I could go on. However, there is no reason for me to do so as I am not sure you will take heart to anything I have said.

I’ll end as I began, quoting Bro. Jimmy. “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Respectfully yours,
Kimberly R. Hampton, M.Div.