Emily DeTar, Traces of Privilege, 4
Colleagues from across the Metro New York district created a space to be open, experiment, and reflect on racial justice and privilege. We nuanced congregational relationships to Black Lives Matter, and discussed case studies of moments that grew complicated. We spoke with one another about how to center the racial justice work we do on the experiences of members of color, while not trying to tokenize people. Finally, we got right into the work, talking about going Beyond the Banner, and all the ways we can participate.
This was true soul work. People dedicated to justice, all sharing in the task of digging deeper. Therefore, the benefit and pleasure of the gathering were truly a privilege.
However, I was also privileged to be able to attend, because I had jobs that gave me professional expenses. For many in the center of activism, and usually those most affected, such as poor working class Black and Latino families, they do not have the positions or means to get them to organized training or to be equipped and given access to resources that they might truly need. For example, all government offices, including welfare and benefits offices are open during work hours, so all poor families have to take off work and possibly risk their jobs just to get the benefits they desperately need. Those at the center of their own activist work can’t attend large organizational meetings during the day. Even within our chapter meeting, we recognized that many chaplains and community ministers didn’t have the time or resources to attend our training. Therefore, it was a privilege of my work and the jobs I hold that I was able to.
Therefore, I would like to share with you a few key takeaways from my training:
Empowerment vs tokenism. We talk about how easily it is to assume that visitors of color want to jump into diversity or leadership roles, and how alienating it can be to people of color in our communities. Instead, we focused on ways we can create inviting spaces for our members of color to feel empowered to join leadership if they wish.
Beyond the Banner. While it is great that congregations are hoisting banners, and while they can create fierce conversations, they are not enough to sustain true engagement and activism. If we are to commit to real justice work, we must go “Beyond the Banner”, and find ways we can engage with racial justice across our congregation.
There are limitless resources you can offer. Think about the specific resources that you can give. As unappealing as it may sound, the most effective gift you can give for change is money. Allocating money to help bail out wrongfully imprisoned persons or to help provide healthy water to those in Flint Michigan and to organizations who need it is incredibly powerful. More than money, think about your congregation’s resources and skills. Do you have someone who is willing to donate their musical talents for a fundraising concert? Do you have a building that you’d be willing to rent out to racial justice organization for free? What about a photocopier you can let them use? There is so much we can give, if we truly assess what we have.
So much more came out of this conversation. I greatly look forward to the ways our fellow ministers and religious educators across Metro New York will engage in Black Lives Matter in the unfolding year. May we all learn from one another, and celebrate the privilege we have of being able to do this work in our UU communities together.
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This is part 4 of an ongoing series, "Traces of Privilege," which explores privileges I possess, and what my faith as a Unitarian Universalist calls me to do about them.
Traces of Privilege, 1: The UU Privileges and Purposes
Traces of Privilege, 2: Unitarian Universalism Has Class -- Meaning Economic Privilege
Traces of Privilege, 3: A Memory of Privilege and The Importance of Personhood
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