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)


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.


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

  1. Pingback: What You Have Amnesia Towards Does Not Have Amnesia Towards You | East Of Midnight

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