When You Can’t Call For Help

I’m housesitting for some friends not too far from my house. No big deal.

Except that it is.

If something goes wrong, I can’t prove that I have cause to be in the house. So I can’t call for help.

Lest you think I’m being overly paranoid, just sit and think about the fact that two women have died at the hands of police after calling them for help in the past month; Charleena Lyles in Seattle and Justine Damon in Minneapolis.

At the end of GA, after word of two UUA staff members being attacked had spread, a group of us were talking about what had happened. When I said that if something happened to me, I wouldn’t call 9-1-1 because I couldn’t be sure that I would actually get help, one friend didn’t want to believe me. I kept giving examples of why I wouldn’t call for help yet by the end of the conversation, this one friend still didn’t want to believe me. Maybe they’ll believe me now.

I don’t expect anything to go wrong while I’m housesitting. But if something does, I’ll call my friends who live not far from where I’m staying, not 9-1-1. Because, frankly, I want to live.

 

 

The Care and Feeding of Black Children’s Souls pt. 3

A lot of my UU friends happen to be religious educators. So when I read articles or studies about black children and education, I think about them.

It so happens that just as GA was ending, Georgetown University Law School released a study called “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood”, which shows that starting at age five (that’s right, 5) black girls are viewed as less innocent and more adult than other girls. The press release from Georgetown says the following:

The new report reveals that adults think:
-Black girls seem older than white girls of the same age.
-Black girls need less nurturing than white girls.
-Black girls need less protection than white girls.
-Black girls need to be supported less than white girls.
-Black girls need to be comforted less than white girls.
-Black girls are more independent than white girls.
-Black girls know more about adult topics than white girls.
-Black girls know more about sex than white girls.

Sit with those results for a minute.

In conjunction with the results of the study done by Dr. Philip Atiba Goff released in 2014 about views of black boys which had similar findings (the big difference is the Georgetown study shows the loss of innocence starting for girls at age 5, Dr. Goff’s research shows the loss of innocence for boys starting at age 10), a disturbing picture presents itself.

What does this mean for UU RE programs?

I know the hard work that RE Directors/Ministers/Administrators put in to setting up their programs. Are they working at a disadvantage* though? If the people who volunteer to work in the RE program have a certain set of assumptions about black children (and I could probably extend that to all children of color), can that be overcome?

How can UU RE programs nurture the souls of children many see as needing less nurturing, comforting, protection, or support?

What support can UU churches give to adults who have had to live with this their entire lives?

How can UU churches educate to counter oppression?

more later.

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.

Pharaoh’s Army Drowned In The Red Sea…or More Unitarian Universalist Nonsense

Somedays the only thing that keeps me half-way in Unitarian Universalism is Aretha Franklin singing gospel.  anyway……

News came out yesterday that UUA officials who RESIGNED from their positions were given healthy (to say the least) severance packages.

WATCH WHITENESS WORK

Let’s be clear about this…if you quit an position/job (elected or appointed) before your term is over and on your own volition, you FORFEIT any benefits you were set to receive. But that’s obviously not true in the UUA.

For this to be done at a time of increasing budget stress for the UUA shows just how much whiteness works for the protection of its own.

I can’t think about this anymore. The verdict in the Philando Castile case just came down. As I expected, Officer Yanez was found “not guilty”. As usual, black life is shown to have no value in the U.S.

So while the UUA is giving out money to people who walked away from the controversy they created, black people are dying on videotape and nobody is held accountable.

WATCH WHITENESS WORK

Since I brought up Aretha Franklin, here she is singing “Mary, Don’t You Weep”

These Things Wouldn’t Happen If You Just Listened To Black Women

I’ve gotten to talk to the bestest friend a couple of times over the past few days. And since bestest friend is also a UU of color, part of our conversation was about the Atlanta survey.

In all the go-around involving the survey, what’s been forgotten/lost is that this wouldn’t have become a UU social media topic if the woman of color (a member of UUCA) who originally pointed this out had been listened to in the first place.

So many issues, both in the UUA/its member congregations and outside of it, would be looked at differently if the general society just listened to Black women and other women of color.

Intersectionality is real. And things will not change–in the UUA/its member congregations and in the outside world–until those who are at the intersections are fully heard and acknowledged.

All I Have To Do Is Stay Black And Die (or…The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intent)

So…over the Facebook wires yesterday came this…..

The UU Congregation of Atlanta is moving. And in their information gathering, a survey was created. This was the first question. What was your first thought when you saw that question just now?  Mine was, “Did somebody not proofread this?”

In the discussion of this survey question yesterday on social media, those of us who said that the question was problematic were told that we didn’t understand the context of the question; what this question was intended to gauge reactions to possible gentrification. And, because a person of color was involved in writing the survey, we should assume the good intentions of all involved.

ok my white liberal friends, here’s something you need to know; there are only two things  in life I have to do…..stay black and die.

Why are people of color always asked to assume the good intentions of white people (or their agents, whether they are white or a person of color)? Asking people of color to assume good intention from white people is asking them to ignore the whole of American history. And it is asking people of color to do something that, let’s be honest, most whites don’t do; assume the good intent of people of color regarding anything.

W.E.B. DuBois said in ‘The Souls of Black Folk’:
Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half- hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.

No matter the intent of the writer of the question, let’s be clear what this question assumed. This question assumed that people of color (and the neighborhoods they live in) are problems. No amount of assuming good intent will change the definition of the word “undesireable”. No amount of assuming good intent will change the fact that Atlanta has the history that it has.

The road to hell truly is paved with good intentions. Assuming the good intentions of white people has done nothing but get people of color killed.

So please…stop telling people of color to assume good intent.

Black People Can Never Be Respectable Enough (White Discomfort with the words ‘White Supremacy’)

(it looks like I might have to do a thread on respectability politics, so this will fit in somewhere)

ok….since some of y’all are determined to stay willfully ignorant, let’s start with the actual definition of ‘white supremacy’:

noun–

the belief, theory, or doctrine that white people are inherently superior to people from all other racial groups, especially black people, and are therefore rightfully the dominant group in any society.                    [Random House Dictionary]

now….before you good white liberals hit my comments section to tell me that it’s only those other white people who believe that (those in the white hoods and so on), explain to me why there are CONFEDERATE statues in northern cities? Schools named after Robert E. Lee in northern cities? Why there was a Calhoun College AT YALE? [I do actually know why]  Confederate flags being flown from  Maine to Minnesota to Washington State and lots of other places in between?

If it’s only those others who believe in white supremacy, then explain all the surveys and polls that show that 25-30% of white liberals believe that blacks are inherently more violent or genetically not as smart as white people. Really, I would love to hear that explanation.

And on the UU front….
Have you heard of Ethelred Brown? And you really want to tell me that white supremacy isn’t in the DNA of the UUA.
Why is it that we can count the number of ministers of color who are solo or lead minister on a couple of hands? Yet people of color have been trying to be a part of the U/U/UU ministry since 1860?

Here are some other questions I have for those of you who are itching to come into my comments with the “not all white people” line…..
-When and where was your congregation founded?
-Has your congregation moved since its founding? If so, when? And to where?
-How close is your congregation to public transportation? (this is a class issue as well as a race issue)
-Did your congregation have discriminatory membership by-laws at any point? (a number of U/U congregations did at the time of merger)

I’ve been around Unitarian Universalists for more than a minute. I also have been involved in the criminal justice/drug law/prison reform-abolition movement since I was a teenager. I can tell you stories about what you good white liberals were saying about these issues when the face of addiction was black/brown. I can also tell you how you same good white liberals are talking about these issues now that the face of addiction is white. But please…tell me how this is not white supremacy.

Tell me how its not white supremacy that public schools are more segregated now than they were in 1954 when Brown v. Board of Education was handed down from the Supreme Court?

Tell me how its not white supremacy when, in case after case, those black/brown slaughtered by police have to be saintly in order to elicit sympathy from the white public. Don’t believe me…just look at how Tamir Rice was treated. There was nothing that could be pinned on him so people went trolling after his parents. Or how people tried to find something in Sandra Bland’s background.

White supremacy means that no matter what we do, black people (and brown and Indigenous people) can never be respectable enough to be deserving of anything resembling compassion or justice in the minds and systems that white people set up.

W.E.B. DuBois is credited with saying, “A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect.” White supremacy was set up to destroy black/brown/Indigenous bodies.

I’m sorry if black/brown/Indigenous people calling white supremacy “white supremacy” offends your delicate, fragile white sensibilities. Actually, I’m not sorry. Because you good white liberals have made deals with the devil (often members of your family) for time immemorial. Now that you’re being called on your complicity, it hurts. Oh well.

When you good white liberals are the first ones to condemn those who are saying people calling for the removal of confederate statues should be lynched (I’m assuming that you’ve heard about the state Rep. in Mississippi who called for that); when you stand up to your family members and tell them to get a clue because the Civil War was about slavery, then maybe we can move forward. Until then your discomfort and offense at being lumped in with those other white people when you hear the words “white supremacy” is not my concern.

Make Me Wanna Holler, Throw Up Both Of My Hands

Let’s talk about the policing of black bodies, shall we?

Late last night, a Tulsa jury found officer Betty Shelby not guilty of manslaughter in the killing of Terence Crutcher. You can be forgiven if you’ve forgotten the case; so many others have been killed by agents of the state since then. Anyway…according to reports the jury had asked if they could make a statement before giving the verdict and that members of the jury were crying as the verdict was read. I know that is supposed to elicit some kind of emotion out of me, but it doesn’t.

For there was video of this killing. We can see that Terence Crutcher had his hands up the entire time of the interaction. But that didn’t matter because Betty Shelby said she had “never been so scared in her life” as she was with a black man who was moving away from her. As has happened in every high profile killing of an unarmed black man by agents of the state, Terence Crutcher was portrayed as a “big, scary black man”. And, in the American psyche, all black men are threats to white women. So Terence Crutcher is dead because America must protect white women, at all cost.

meanwhile…..

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I’ve posted stories over the last few days reporting on the disciplining of young black and multiracial girls for having hair styles that “violated” school dress code policy.

I. Can’t. Even.

The fascination with, politics and policing of, black women’s hair deserves someone better than me to write about it as a subject. But I’m going to say a couple of things.

Telling young black and multiracial girls that their natural hair or having their hair put into braids is a violation of a code is a violation of these girls humanity. It is telling them that their natural hair is somehow bad. And, by extension, they are somehow bad.

This also is a symptom of the over-policing of black children in schools. Black girls are the most over-sanctioned demographic in this nation’s schools. And research shows that black children (and brown children too) are punished more harshly for violations of policy than white children.

And there’s news today that a child of color with special needs was handcuffed and tasered in his classroom in Dallas.

I know that the machinations in Washington, D.C. suck up all the air in the room most days. But I think it’s important to point out that the state has been going wild on certain populations for generations.

There’s work to do, friends. There’s work to do.

If You Just Change The Key, It’s Still The Same Old Song

If you’ve listened to Mark Morrison-Reed’s Minns Lecture, or read “Black Pioneers in a White Denomination”, then you know about the survey (questions were asked about various aspects of worship and spiritual life) that was done in 1989 for the Commission on Appraisal. There are some striking differences in the responses.

When asked what they saw as the very important aspects of worship, white UUs chose “intellectual stimulation” and “fellowship” as their top two (at 74% and 65%, respectively). African American UUs, however, chose “celebrating common values” and “hope” as their top 2 (at 69% and 60%, respectively). Now, “fellowship”  is the third highest aspect for African American survey respondents (at 56%), and “celebrating common values” is the third highest for white survey respondents (at 60%), but if one looks at the entirety of the results, there is a noticeable difference.

The rest of the top five very important aspects for white UUs were “personal reflection” (53%) and “group experience of participation” (44%). The rest of the top five very important aspects for African American UUs were “music” (50%) and “intellectual stimulation” (47%).

When I was first thinking about this post, I thought it would be another one in my maybe-series about worship. While I will probably write about worship specifically later (the ten percentage point differences in the “music” and “personal reflection” answers deserves a post of their own), the survey  answers to the worship question point to a much larger thought.

We go to church for different reasons.

Let’s sit with that for a moment.

If white UUs are looking for intellectual stimulation and fellowship primarily when looking for a congregation, yet African Americans are looking for a celebration of common values and a place that gives hope when looking for a congregation; what does that mean when creating a space/place that is inviting to all?

So here are the questions…..

Why do you go to church? [and, by extension, why did you choose the congregation you chose]

What does the “beloved community” look like when what we are seeking are different things when we gather?

 

*the survey in 1989 only broke the answers down by white and black respondents. if the survey were being done now, I’m certain that the racial/ethnic breakdown would be more expansive.

Godspeed, Jim Key

News came out a little while ago that UUA Moderator Jim Key is resigning his position due to serious health concerns.

I last saw Jim at the UUA Board meeting April 21-22 in Boston. As always, he was deeply engaged, funny, personable, and an active listener. Considering the discussions that were going on, that was a true gift. He will be missed.

My thoughts and prayers are with Jim, his wife Liz, and the rest of his family.

Good luck and Godspeed, Jim.