Having to Leave Your Blackness at the Church House Door

I’m part of the planning for some upcoming worship services. And during our planning meeting today, one of the other people involved asked (rhetorically), “how Black am I allowed to be in UUism?”

I hadn’t put it in those exact words recently, but it’s a question worth considering.

UUism asks people of color to play respectability politics all the time. There’s only so much of one’s person of color-ness that one is allowed to bring in to the church house, no matter what other marginalized identity that the person of color might carry.

So the question is…how much can UU culture change so that people of color can bring their full selves through the church house door?

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In Wakanda, Stephon Clark Would Still Be Alive

I’ve been trying to come up with the words to express how I feel about the most recent state-agent killing of a Black person; Stephon Clark was killed by Sacramento police this week in his own backyard.

What I keep coming back to is…Stephon would be alive if Wakanda were real.

I know many of you are probably tired of hearing/reading me talk about Wakanda. But it is so lovely there. And it highlights how far from it we are in the “real world.”

Stephon Clark is dead because police mistook him for a man who was vandalising cars. Let me repeat that…..

Stephon Clark is dead because police mistook him for a man who was vandalising cars.

Sit with that.

A black man is DEAD over an alleged minor property crime.  (one that he was not committing, by the way)

Let’s look at the other major issue…..

Stephon Clark was shot in HIS OWN BACKYARD.

And another issue…..

Police interviewed Stephon’s grandmother BEFORE they told her that her grandson was dead.

Next issue…..

Police lied about the entire situation and only told the truth after video was released.

This is the real world.

Wakanda would be different.

Stephon Clark would be alive if Wakanda were real.

In Wakanda were real…..

Mike Brown would be alive.

Tamir Rice would be alive.

Eric Garner would be alive.

Sandra Bland would be alive.

Rekia Boyd would be alive.

Aiyanna Stanley-Jones would be alive.

In Wakanda, all the people would be alive because in Wakanda…black lives matter.

#WakandaForever

Black Panther and the War on Black Children

Pay attention to the part where the mother (with her son) is talking about what Black Panther really means. Yes, it makes me cry.

It was reported yesterday in the New York Times and other places about a study done by the “Equality of Opportunity Project” that Black male children (and Indigenous male children too) of rich families have a greater chance of being in poverty as adults than white or Asian male children. The executive summary states it this way:

Growing up in a high-income family provides no insulation from these disparities. American Indian and black children have much higher rates of downward mobility than other groups. Black children born to parents in the top income quintile are almost as likely to fall to the bottom quintile as they are to remain in the top quintile. By contrast, white children born in the top quintile are nearly five times as likely to stay there as they are to fall to the bottom.
Two things…..first, this study is specifically about Black (and Indigenous) boys. Second, this is specific about income; there is a difference between income and wealth. And the difference between income and wealth can, in large measure, explain why there looks to be such inequality between Black/Indigenous boys and white boys while at the same time not showing this type of inequality between Black girls and white girls.
What this study shows is how important, culturally, Black Panther really is.
Wakanda is not real. Unfortunately.
If Wakanda were real, then Black children wouldn’t be under constant assault from the society around them.
If Wakanda were real, then Black children would be seen as children and valued as such.
If Wakanda were real, then Black parents wouldn’t have to worry about what’s going to happen to their child in the outside world when that child grows up.
If Wakanda were real…..
What really gets me about the video above is not just the mother and what she says. What brings the tears to my eyes is the son’s total awe at being in the presence of Chadwick Boseman. Representation matters my friends. That boy’s wonder and awe matters.
#WakandaForever

The Exodus Should Not Be Quiet…Whether It’s Out of White Evangelicalism or Unitarian Universalism

I will write more about this after next week, but wanted to give some initial thoughts here.

In today’s New York Times there is an in-depth article exploring the exodus of African Americans from heavily white, but integrated, evangelical churches.

Since in the subtitle of the article mentions the word exodus, it’s got me thinking about the Exodus story.

For those of you familiar with the story, you know  Moses gave Pharaoh a number of chances to change the situation. Moses warned Pharaoh about what would happen if things didn’t change. The situation did not change.

African Americans–like Moses, whether in predominately white evangelical churches or liberal/progressive churches, have been giving Pharaoh a number of chances to change how their religious institutions work. African Americans–like Moses–have been telling Pharaoh what would happen if things didn’t change in these religious institutions.

The question is will Pharaoh be any different this time than the last time?

Black Panther Theology Syllabus

I’ve been working on a theology syllabus that might help people understand things that are going on in Black Panther/Wakanda, and it has been enjoyable and frustrating at the same time. It’s frustrating because how does one look at the theology as it relates to a place where the scourge of white supremacy didn’t infiltrate from a place where white supremacy is in the DNA? (and please, don’t tell me that Wakanda is not real. if people can write about the theology in Harry Potter, it can–and should–be done for Black Panther/Wakanda)

So I’ll be setting up a Black Panther Theology syllabus page soon.

But….the first book on the list is “Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois. (you should read this just because, anyway)

I’m still debating how to handle Killmonger. He is less theology and more sociology and psychology; as such, he might get his own page–or section on the main page.

The Black Black Blackity Black Joy Of, and For, Black Panther

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.

Getting To Write Your Own Story?…..Priceless (Black Panther, Wakanda, and Unitarian Universalism)

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)

#WakandaForever

“Don’t tell me what’s possible. Tell me the truth.”…One Thing Wakanda Has To Tell Unitarian Universalism

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.

#WakandaForever

What Does It Mean To Be Welcoming? And Are People of Color Included?

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.