Listen to the MoveOn.org conference call on combating white supremacy here: https://act.moveon.org/survey/readytoresist/
A Note From SURJ Charlottesville and BLM Charlottesville
On Saturday, white supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville to wage a war of terror and violence. That effort did not emerge out of nowhere — it was the latest peak within a months-long campaign to intimidate and terrorize communities of color in Charlottesville.
This time, though, the soul of America cracked open a little wider than it has before. Images of assault rifles, stories of police protecting Nazis over neighbors, and the murder of activist Heather Heyer has turned the attention of the country to this small town. And while folks across the country are heeding the call from Movement for Black Lives to turn out to solidarity rallies at sites of white supremacy in their own communities (sign up for that here), we also wanted to amplify some asks from local activists with the BLM chapter and the SURJ chapter in Charlottesville.
Most of the time, we try to send emails that have one specific ask in them with some background and analysis to explain that ask. This email is different. We’d love for you to take as many of these actions as possible in order to truly show the people of Charlottesville that you have their backs:
1. Provide financial support for ongoing mental health care, trauma counseling, and living expenses for Black organizers in Charlottesville: https://www.
2. Call the office of Judge Richard Moore of the Charlottesville Circuit Court (434-970-3766) to urge him to dismiss an upcoming court case for which there is an August 30 hearing, disputing the ability of the City Council to remove the Robert E. Lee statue that white supremacists are defending. Here’s a sample script:
3. Petition the administration at the University of Virginia to publicly denounce white supremacist alumni Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler, revoke their diplomas, and commit to ejecting them from UVA grounds if they ever show their faces there again: https://actionnetwork.
4. Petition Mayor Mike Signer and Councilwoman Kathy Galvin to change their votes against removing the Robert E. Lee statue and to also remove all other confederate monuments , as a sign that they support community safety and reconciliation: https://
5. Remove all confederate monuments from public space. Organize locally; apply pressure nationally!
We’re so grateful for everyone who has moved into action in this moment, and we look forward to continuing to support this network as we move beyond the moment and build a truly powerful movement.
In the struggle,
Erin, Evelyn, Heather, and the SURJ National team, in partnership with SURJ Charlottesville and BLM Charlottesville
White Supremacy Teach In – A Call to Learn More
As members of the UU, we are all well aware of the evils of racism and none of us would knowingly discriminate against or disparage a person of color. But there is something invisible to us as white people that is excluding people of color from our congregation. The word for it is “white supremacy”, and I know that word shocks you, but I’m using it for a very specific reason. It is the term that you need for your homework assignment. As UU’s, we are known for our above average intelligence and education. We are known as thinkers. As the chart below shows, we as UU’s are some of the most highly educated religious groups out there.
We are good at homework. It’s what we do. But before we get to the homework assignment, let’s take a look at why we are having the Teach In.
Why are we having a Teach In?
For information on what spurred this call to action, head to UUWorld.org’s article “Critics decry white supremacy in hiring practices,” or read the article in the Summer 2017 issue of UU World. It has become clear that, in order for us to be more effective at tackling the white supremacy beyond our walls, we must also identify ways in which systems of supremacy and inequality live within our faith and our lives. As one of the 24 UU ministers of color, RoseMary Bray McNatt wrote, “We must admit that Unitarian Universalism has a specific, sometimes alienating culture, and we must change it.”
Why are we using the term “white supremacy” at the upcoming Teach In?
We are using this term because it will help you in your homework. We’re not talking about the KKK here. We’re talking about the white culture all around us that we, as white people, don’t even see. It’s “the water we swim in” without even realizing it. We’re talking about an unconscious preference for white people that we’ve been taught since birth and that we can’t overcome without conscious thought to do so every day. It’s a tendency to devalue the insights, opinions, and lived reality of people of color.
And I don’t want you to take my word for it. I want you to do the research. That’s your homework. Go home and read articles. Read books. Watch documentaries and lectures. Google “white supremacy culture”. Read the great articles like this one that you will find. Talk it over with people at church. Talk it over with me. I don’t have all the answers. I’m learning too. Decide for yourself.
And that’s all I’m asking today. Learn more. White people like to solve problems. They want to know, “what are we going to do about this?”. You are smart people. You can figure that part out. But today, the agenda is to learn more. The agenda it to think. I’m not asking you to change the UUCC. I’m not asking you to change anything right now except your level of knowledge on this particular subject. Once we all know more and can talk about this, then there will be time for changes when we decide what the right changes are. But right now, the agenda is to learn more.
At this Teach In, we are not trying to call anyone out; we are trying to call you in to a conversation.
Looking forward to sharing this conversation with you.
Teach In Committee
Here are the talks if you missed the service on July 23rd
Here are some resources to start your homework:
Watch this video with guest speaker Robin DiAngelo, author of What Does it Mean to be White, speaking about UU culture specifically.
Watch: Whiteness’ Supremacy and Reaching Out (from the UUA)
Read: Building the World We Dream About from the UUA
Watch: As this black man talks about white people being uncomfortable with race but black people having to deal with it every day.
Examples of White Culture
1.#WhiteCulture is following people of color around in a museum gift shop while the main exhibit houses stolen treasures from Egypt of India. – Charles Brokowski
2. It’s the fact that white history is taught as part of the main curriculum and black history is an elective.
3. Although whites actually use drugs more than blacks, blacks are incarcerated at six times the rate of whites. Crack, the drug choice of mostly poor, black people has much higher penalties than those for powder cocaine, used primarily by richer white people. The epidemic of heroin, used overwhelmingly by White people, as a“health problem” instead of a “crime problem”
4. When someone tells you they’ve experienced racism, and you try to explain that the person didn’t mean to be racist or didn’t have that intention. Did you tell them that they were being oversensitive? Because of white culture, white people tend to think that they understand things better that people of color. Unwittingly, they are invalidating the person of color’s experience and perceptions. Next time you try to explain something to a person of color, consider for a moment if you should be listening more instead. Consider why you think you are the one who can bring reason into the conversation. Remember that you are not an authority on how other people should feel about what issues affect them. Here’s an excellent article explaining whitesplaining.
5. White people saying they are color blind. This actually invalidates the person of color’s identity, and in reality, the color of a person’s skin is very hard not to see.
6. Realize that it’s possible you have biases, even if you don’t consciously agree with them. Take the Harvard Implicit Bias test to see what biases you may have without knowing it. Or this Harvard test on race bias. When you got your answers, did you create reasons why you didn’t do well?
7. Articles like this written by the same author on the same day. Notice one uses mug shots and the other school pics:
General Racism Resources
Watch this 5 minute video from The New York Times: “A Conversation with White People on Race”
Even more resources: Allies for Racial Equity
Remember that race has no scientific biological basis. It is a social and legal construct set up to rationalize and justify indefensible acts. New genetic research shows that what we once thought as racial differences turn out to be local differences. Even core racial indicators like head form have changed over a single generation with nutrition.
Often we hear rationalizations about why people of color haven’t “made it” in our culture. This is white supremacy at work. Let’s take a look at some common arguments:
- Blacks are killing themselves with black-on-black violence. White people also kill and attack other whites. Why is this never considered?
- Blacks are lacking the family structure that they need. There are never any fathers around. Consider that through our white supremacy society that we incarcerate blacks at an astounding rate. In effect, we as whites are removing these fathers from their families. Although blacks make up only 13% of the total population, they make up 40% of the prison population. This is not because black people commit more crimes. It’s because police focus their attention on people of color. One half of the prison population is in for drug offenses. There are 14 million white people who use drugs and only 2.6 million black people who use drugs, yet blacks make up 59% of prisoners convicted for drug offenses. These numbers don’t add up. Investigate the school to prison pipeline.
- We had a black president, so racism is no longer an issue in America. Look at Oprah Winfrey. When in 2017, a rich, talented, well respected man like LeBron James says, “Being black in America is tough,” then racism is still present. When billionaire Oprah Winfrey is shown a cheaper purse in a store, racism is still present.
- BlackLivesMatter is against police. #BlackLivesMatter is against police violence, not against police. It seeks to bring attention to all the forms of oppression prevalent in the lives of minorities that whites are sometimes unaware of.
- Don’t all lives matter? Yes, of course all lives matter. But right now we live in a world where people of color are brutalized and killed again and again by police with no consequences. #BlackLivesMatter tries to address this specific issue. Please attend our regular church service on July 30 to hear more from Ty dePass of the local #BlackLivesMatter chapter.
What to say
If someone says something offensive, speak up every time. Think about what you’ll say ahead of time so you’ll be able to act instantly. Ask them why they believe that. Be sure to use language that addresses what they said and not who they are. Listen and then tell them why what they said is offensive. Sometimes ignorance is at work and they might not be aware of the connotations or they might lack exposure to a diverse population. Be aware that the person you are speaking to will likely become defensive. They might very well say something like “I’m not a racist”. Remind them that it’s not WHO they are that you have issue with but only WHAT they said. And realize that there is a 90% chance that they will not be convinced.
If someone else speaks up, be sure to thank them and let them know you agree.
Activities: Safety Pin Box
Find out about the Safety Pin Box subscription service to get monthly ideas on how you can make a difference. Watch a video about it here:
We are not living together in peace. We are living separately, in suspicion and distrust. “Every nation,” wrote the nineteenth-century French philosopher Ernest Renan, “is a community both of shared memory and of shared forgetting.” None of us should feel personal responsibility for what our parents or grandparents did or did not do. But there will be guilt enough for our own generation if we do not confront and address the bitter consequences.
Nearly a century ago, the Rev. Lewis B. Fisher, the dean of the Universalist seminary at St. Lawrence University, memorably described religious liberalism’s flexibility. “Universalists are often asked to tell where they stand,” he wrote. “The only true answer . . . is that we do not stand at all, we move.” We face a major turning point in Unitarian Universalism, and our decision whether to stand or move will shape the identity and set the course of our religious movement for the twenty-first century. In a word, our turning point can be summed up in the term multiculturalism.*