In the movie T’Chaka says, when asked a question by T’Challa, “He was the truth I chose to omit.”
What are the truths Unitarian Universalism chooses to omit? Or, more precisely, what are the truths about Unitarian Universalism that Unitarian Universalists choose to omit?
I could go on, but there’s no need to. These questions are big enough.
It has now been a little over a week since Black Panther officially opened in theaters and I am fresh off seeing it yet again. And, if the information is correct, the movie has made over $700 million at the box office in the 10 days since its release. Plus, it looks as if the movie will hit $1 billion (yes, billion-with-a-B) in less than a month from date of release.
It really should surprise nobody that the reaction to the movie has been this positive and strong.
Black Panther is a movie with a Black protagonist that isn’t about U.S. chattel slavery, the modern-era Civil Rights Movement, or some magical Negro who saves the day for white people.
Black Panther is a movie in which ALL of the main characters are Black and nobody is a drug addict, a pimp/prostitute, an incarcerated person, a formerly incarcerated person, a con artist, or any other stereotype that America has perpetuated for time immemorial.
Black Panther is a movie in which Black people are living normal lives. (strange to say that about a superhero movie, but it’s the truth)
In short, Black Panther is Black people being able to be Black without the white gaze.
And damn, if that ain’t something joyous.
So if you want to understand why Black Panther is breaking records all over the place, know that the reason we say #WakandaForever is most people of color never get to see ourselves without the white gaze mediating it. It’s truly something special.
more on what Wakanda has to tell Unitarian Universalism later.
At all? Not specifically today, but at any point during this month?
Were African American Unitarian Universalists mentioned from the pulpit? Any African American Unitarian Universalist history?
Any acknowledgement of Unitarian Universalists of color?
Are we ever going to get to the point in the conversation about guns and mass shootings to point out a few things…..
1. The vast majority of mass shooters (and all of the school shooters) are white men. So this is not just a problem of toxic masculinity, it is an outgrowth of white supremacy.
2. The history of guns in this country is HIGHLY racialized.
Let’s look at the Second Amendment, shall we? Here is the text of it:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Wanna know what that well-regulated Militia was for? The suppression of slave revolts. In fact, all white men in the colonies (and then, later, the states) were required to have a gun in order to be a part of a Militia which would be activated if there was a slave revolt.
3. The history of gun control in this country is HIGHLY racialized.
Just look at what happened in California after the Black Panthers open carried in Sacramento. Gun control in this country has always been about controlling Black people’s access to guns (and by extension, controlling Black people’s access to self-protection).
4. Armed people in schools will not stop these kinds of shootings.
What they will do it get more people killed. And children of color will be targeted in the officer’s downtime.
Until this country is ready to deal with its history (and present) with guns, nothing is going to change.
That’s it. I’m going back to Wakanda now.
What would Unitarian Universalism look like if people of color were allowed to write the story of it?
One of the reasons that Black Panther and Wakanda are such a phenomenon in many circles is because of the story it tells. The story of a people and a land in Africa that was never touched by the “colonizer” (aka white people and white supremacy). The story of a people and a land in Africa that was allowed to developed on its own and to keep its resources.
Of course, that’s why Black Panther and Wakanda are fantasy.
The colonizers did come to Africa.
The colonizers did rape and pillage; both the land and the people.
And that is why, dear friends, so many people of color are coming out of the movie saying some form of, “Know what…Killmonger had a point.”
What does this have to do with Unitarian Universalism?
What would it mean to look at Unitarian Universalism as a colonizer religion? How would that change the story that gets told?
What if the story of Unitarian Universalism was told from the perspectives of Killmonger; those who have been left behind or ignored or pushed to the side?
What would the story of Unitarian Universalism be if people of color got to tell their stories without fear?
As St. Paul says, “think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
I was going to write another post on what I think Wakanda has to teach Unitarian Universalism, but the longer I’ve thought about it, I need to take a step back.
One thing I know is that the Florida shooting was going to get talked about from the pulpit in UU congregations today. (and so it should) Yet, just as I’m sure about the Florida shooting being talked about, I’m almost as sure that Wakanda/Black Panther won’t get notice at all in most UU congregations.
Now….some of this is the “that could have been my child” factor about the Florida shooting (oh, I could write so much about this point. but won’t). And some of this is UU snobbery about cultural things that might have mainstream appeal.
But I think some of it is that the Black Panther universe is so explicitly Black that most UUs are too uncomfortable even imagining a place where whiteness is not centered. Where white people only play a small, side role in what’s going on (and that role being prescribed by a smart black woman….oooo weeeee! I ain’t even gonna go there).
So….was Black Panther mentioned from the pulpit in your UU congregation today?
There are so many things that Wakanda could tell Unitarian Universalism. This post will talk about one.
For those of you who’ve seen “Black Panther”, you will know that the title of this post comes from a conversation between T’Challa and Zuri. “Don’t tell me what’s possible. Tell me the truth.”
I’ve been thinking about denial in Unitarian Universalism lately; both active denial and passive denial.
Since the latest iteration of the racial justice problems in Unitarian Universalism became public almost a year ago, many UUs of color have been telling their stories of how white supremacy shows itself in UU congregations and other UU institutions. Yet, when presented with these stories, many white UUs have flatly denied or tried to rationalize what UUs of color experience.
UU religious professionals of color are STILL being pushed out of jobs and white parishioners are covering their eyes and saying that they “need to speak with one voice”.
UUs of color are getting told they are “too confrontational” when reading a piece of a work written by a person of color during a worship service.
White UUs want badly to believe certain things about their congregations. They want to believe in the “what’s possible.”
UUs of color are telling the truth of what is actually going on in UU congregations.
When the Commission on Institutional Change issues a more detailed report, how are white UUs going to handle it? Are they going to keep being in denial (the “what’s possible”)? Or will they listen to the truth?
I may write more on what I think Wakanda has to tell Unitarian Universalism, but I need to see it again before I make up my mind.
So this past week has been the week of stories related to UU churches seemingly going out of their way to be explicitly unwelcoming to people of color–particularly visitors.
What is it going to take for UU congregations to understand that visitors, especially visitors of color, want to be greeted as if they didn’t make a mistake walking in the door? That the congregation sees their visit as the gift it is? That hospitality is a big part of the call of working towards being the Beloved Community? That hospitality means something?
If UU congregations want to get anywhere in their racial justice work, it would help if they started with their own congregations.
If UU congregations want to be relevant in the future, they need to get woke now. Because if they don’t, they will get left behind.
I could make this post about the time, during my ministerial internship, when I was asked “When did February become Black History Month?” I could, but I won’t.
Yet it does seem right, on this first day of Black History Month, to ask how prepared UU congregations are to honor the month.
What’s your UU congregation doing to acknowledge the month? Is it doing anything?
I’ve been a fat girl all my life. So I know what it’s like to feel the need to prove that you are worthy [of love, respect, attention, friendship, common decency–take your pick]. I spent a lot of years trying to prove exactly that.
Since the news of “shithole countries” has come out, I have watched Haitian Americans, African immigrants, El Salvadoreans, and Africans still on the continent trying to prove that their countries are not “shitholes” or that they (and their families) are worthy of being in the United States (or not being looked down on by the United States). And it has made me so heartbroken. Knowing that their pleading is all for nothing. Because the one thing I know from my time going through this is that, if you are a member of a minority (or any out- group), there is nothing you can say, nothing you can do, no amount of education you can have, no way to present yourself, etc. etc. to make you respectable enough to the majority (or the in- group).
Welcome to the world of respectability politics. Where people on the outside of the circle try to prove they are worthy of something that should, by any and all measure, be their birthright. Where people are losing their lives because it can never be proven; the drawers of the circle will always change the boundaries to make it so.
If you want to understand why I talk about white supremacy the way I do; this is why. I don’t want anybody else to have to feel like I did as a fat, black girl; unworthy of the things that are necessary to living a full human life.
Respectability politics puts the onus on those who are oppressed to show that they are worthy of things that are human birthrights. Respectability politics saps the energy for the things that give life. In short, respectability politics are evil. And evil needs to be called out. Always.