Showing Up for Racial Justice

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) invites us to stay engaged on Black Lives Matter efforts. Our Black neighbors, friends, and family members have been asking us to dismantle racism in ourselves for a long time.  “No More Killing” vigils sponsored by CVUUS and Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) congregating at Middlebury’s College Park said NO to police brutality following George Floyd’s death.  Follow more here.

How Racism Impacts UU’s and Our Congregation Study Group (Oct 2021): Rev. Barnaby will lead a 5-session class every other Thursday 5:15-6:15 pm starting Thur Oct. 14 through Dec. 8 based on the UU Association’s Widening the Circle of Concern Report, an in-depth study issued in 2020 looking at how racism shows up within Unitarian Universalism. Contact to sign up. Look for more here.

From Rev. Barnaby (April 2021): Beloveds, I won’t say much about Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd. My job as your minister is to say something bearing witness on behalf of Champlain Valley UU’s  on occasions like this. My job as a privileged white male in our society is to speak only after listening long and hard and reconsidering my – and our – connection to the systemic racism driving all of these events.

What I’m hearing that makes sense to me to share with you now are these few points:

  • This is not a case of justice being done, this is a case of accountability being assigned to a leading player in one unjust killing; as Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison succinctly reminded us “Accountability it just the first step toward justice.”
  • Accountability here emerged from an unusual set of circumstances involving determined prosecutors, many brave, traumatized observers stepping forward as witnesses including providing video they recorded with extraordinary courage and presence of mind as the murder unfolded, activists working hard to organize in support of prosecution on all the charges brought, and a sizable number of influential law enforcement figures breaking the “blue wall of silence” that makes it so hard to control police violence. (“This didn’t happen because the system worked but because the people put in the work,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, a member of the Minnesota Justice Coalition).
  • Beware the “bad apple” argument. Chauvin may fit that definition (for now – as UU’s, we pray he changes course with the rest of his life and have faith that such an outcome is possible). But “bad apples” are not an alternative explanation for racist outcomes in policing to systemic problems in our society, including how we train police and what we expect of them. “Bad apples” exacerbate the problems but should never become a white supremacist excuse for not tackling the broader issues.
  • Don’t overlook how often BIPoC commenters and the rest of us are describing our first reactions as “I can breathe.” Let’s keep working for things that help us – and every being with whom we share the planet – breathe more freely. (Don’t forget, sometimes it’s putting on a mask for a while that helps).

21 Day Challenge:

From SURJ: If you are a white person reading this, please make a commitment to diving deep into the work of dismantling white supremacy in yourself, our community, and our world. Our Black neighbors, our Indigenous neighbors, our neighbors of color have been asking this of us for a long, long time. We are here to support you on this path. Attend our movie screenings at Middlebury’s Marquis Theater. Watch the weekly blast for invites to upcoming ones.

Stay Healthy & Safe, CVUUS & SURJ

Here are some things to do to help us dismantle white supremacy inside ourselves. White people striving to be anti racist must do this internal work)
  1. Read How to Be Less Stupid About Race, by Crystal Fleming. There are So Many Other Amazing Books we could list here, but this one is particularly fabulous, and you can get it at VT Bookshop. Two others include Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad and How to be an Anti Racist by Ibram X. Kendi.
  2. Join anti racism book groups. Working with a small group of other white folks committed to this path is a really important way to strengthen our anti racism muscles.
  3. Post a Black Lives Matter lawn sign. Contact Priscilla Bremser to get one for $15.
Working to dismantle internalized white supremacy is a lifelong endeavor. The work is never done. And in the same way that racist power structures have been constructed and reinforced over centuries, racism is not going to be dissolved this week or this year. 
If you are a white person reading this, know that you are somewhere on the spectrum from those just waking up to these harsh truths, to people a bit further along on the journey. But every single one of us has work to do, and that work does not have an end. So we must work with love, to hold one another accountable, to encourage each other, and to demand better from our white colleagues, friends, and family members. Our Black neighbors, our Indigenous neighbors, our neighbors of color have been asking this of us for a long, long time. We are here to support your anti racism work.
For a perspective on policing, see this 2014 sermon by congregant Chris Mason, a Middlebury Police Officer
Also see these links provided by Poppy Rees, Dir of Rel. Exploration

Lauren Wyeth, Director of Children, Youth and Family Ministries at First Universalist Church of Minneapolis
May 31, 2020 Message for All Ages

Lauren gives a really truthful yet tender telling of what happened to George Floyd and why people are so upset about it.  And she also offers really meaningful ways for families to respond on a small scale in our homes, our neighborhoods, or with our local officials.  Definitely worth a watch as a parent, to have some language modeled for a great way to talk with your own kids about what happened and why it’s important to take some kind of action as Unitarian Universalist.

Supporting Kids Of Color in The Wake of Racialized Violence: Part One(with a link to Part Two)

Still relevant, unfortunately, this very first EmbraceRace live conversation happened in July of 2016 in the immediate aftermath of the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and 5 Dallas police officers. We convened by phone and over 700 people joined the call. For this conversation, EmbraceRace co-founders Andrew Grant-Thomas and Melissa Giraud frame and moderate a discussion between child psychologist Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith, educator Dr. Sandra Chapman, and a group of parents, teachers, and other caregivers concerned about black and brown children.

Raising White Kids (7 mins. listen)
NPR’s Michel Martin talks to Jennifer Harvey, author of Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America, about how to talk with white kids about racially-charged events.

Talking with Children About Racism, Police Brutality, and Protests

Article that has concrete example of how to talk to kids of different ages about these topics.

Barbara Clearbridge wants to recommend a book to the CVUUS community which addresses how trauma, including racial trauma, is passed on from generation to generation. It focuses on three populations: white people (who have traumatized each other since the Middle Ages), black people, and the police, who are traumatized in their own way by observing traumatic incidents, by fear, and by their own actions.

My Grandmother’s Hands, subtitled Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Out Hearts and Bodies,by Resmaa Menakem, a black man from Cincinnati, takes a body-centered approach, saying that trauma is passed on through DNA and that we can heal our DNA.

He puts forward a strong argument that we can’t end racial prejudice by only changing our minds because this prejudice, racial trauma, and hatred (of other and of self) is in our bodies and our culture.

He gives practical suggestions for all three populations and for the interactions among us.  I recommend it highly.

By the way, in his acknowledgments, he thanks his brother, police officer Christopher Mason! CVUUS’ Officer Chris Mason is from England, but perhaps?…