No, Virginia…..All Black People Don’t Look Alike (GA Reflection #1)

Well…GA is over. I’m actually kinda sad about that.  anyway…..

Situation #1– After the Service of the Living Tradition on Thursday night, while talking to a friend, a woman comes up to me and says, “I just loved what you said during the Chalice Lighting.” If you watched the SLT, you will know that I didn’t do the Chalice Lighting; Elizabeth Terry did. The only thing that remotely is alike between Elizabeth and me is that we were both wearing black hats at the SLT. And we are both Black women.

Situation #2– Some time after plenary on Friday, a woman comes up to me while I’m on my way into the Exhibit Hall and says, “You have such a wonderful singing voice.” Now, I do sing. But I don’t sing at GA because I’m too busy doing other things. I didn’t have a chance to correct the woman as she went on about her way, but I couldn’t figure out what, or who, she was really talking about. I found out later this woman was thinking that I was Amanda Thomas, the wonderful music director at Second Unitarian-Chicago and a fabulous singer. The only thing remotely similar between Amanda and me is our height. And we are both Black women.

Those are just the incidents that happened to me. I know for sure that people mistakenly thought that Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt preached the SLT. (she didn’t; that was Rev. Cheryl M. Walker) Other UU women of color have reported similar stories.

There are a number of beautiful Black women in the UU-universe. (If I looked one-tenth as good as these women, I would be doing alright.) GA is not a meeting of the National Baptist Convention or the AMEs, it is a meeting of Unitarian Universalists; so while there are more UUs of color in one place than most UUs are used to seeing, there is no reason that any of us should be confused with each other. [the exception being Janice Marie and Hope Johnson]

What does this mean?

I don’t really know. It does make me wonder how much progress we will make as long as all the UU women of color are interchangeable in the minds of most white UUs.

No, Virginia…all Black people don’t look alike.


6 thoughts on “No, Virginia…..All Black People Don’t Look Alike (GA Reflection #1)

  1. Heavy sigh. Thank you for naming these events. It helps me think about the work that needs to be done. Still not entirely clear what that ought to look like, but these observations are important indicators.
    Peace. Paul Boothby

  2. I had a similar experience. Tuesday evening in the Hilton Riverside Hotel, a White UU woman rushed up to me in the lobby bar and gave me a bear hug saying “Natalie, it’s so good to see you again!” I told her, I was not Natalie Fennimore, but Susan Newman Moore from All Souls UU in DC. She replied,”Oh, but you look just alike. Your hair, face, glasses and everything. The thing we have in common is we are both intelligent, Black clergywomen, with two eyes and a nose — that’s pretty much the commonalities we have physically. Hilarious…pitiful, and hilarious!
    Sincerely, Rev. Susan Newman Moore

  3. In my active ministry days, I bore tremendous physical resemblance to another minister who had a much greater pulpit spotlight and talent. More than once I had to steer someone’s compliments toward the correct red-headed young woman. Likewise, more than once I have carefully leaned toward a nametag and discovered the person in front of me was not the one I thought.

    There are a lot of reasons for people to mistake other people. Yes, we are going through a learning curve on telling apart our expanding ranks of UUs of color. But when we were all white folks in conformist suits and dresses, that problem was more widespread than might be thought. As sorry as I am for your pain, I plead for you to believe that some of the rest of us have been through the same deprivation of our own names.

  4. Not to mention folks complementing Kenny Wiley on his great job moderating the General Session (on the GA App).
    PSA for readers who don’t know why this is a big deal: Gregory Boyd, a UUA Board Member was one of the tri-moderators, Kenny Wiley is a UU World editor. They do not look alike aside from the fact that they are both young-ish black men. Their height is different, their hair is different, etc.

  5. Kimberly, thanks for this post! One of the first things I learned at a White Privilege Conference years ago is that white people don’t recognize any specific features about Black people. We whites were told that if you think someone looks “exactly” like another African American, stop right there because you are Wrong. There is no excuse for this at GA because we all have name tags!!
    I actually read an article once “All Caucasians Look Alike” that shows studies prove that really, there are only a few physical characteristics that distinguish one white person from the other. Whites recognize each other by how we dress, our location, the way we move, speak, all sorts of other clues. White privilege says that we need not check a myriad of clues when recognizing Blacks.

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