I woke up this morning and read Tom Schade’s blog The Lively Tradition, “Fear vs. Boldness” parts 1 & 2 and it really got me thinking. After reading this anonymous post about the turmoil and angst being felt by many Unitarian Universalist seminarians, I started drifting through the Facebook pages of my friends, both fellowshipped ministers and those still in formation. I then came across the following article by Frank Joyce on one of their pages: “Now is the Time for a New Abolition Movement”…again more thinking, but more importantly, a personal wake up call to do away with fear and step into boldness…
Unitarian Universalists have some really good stuff going around diversity, but at the same time we are completely missing the boat where creating real change around racism is concerned. I have been looking at how Unitarian Universalists are planning to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the actions and deaths in Selma, Alabama in March 2015,and in particular I have been following the Living Legacy Project. Yet there is little language here or on the Unitarian Universalist Association website that states plainly that this was a conflict that came out of a deeply entrenched racial divide between black and white people in the United States, and no connection drawn to the ongoing struggle that is evident in situations such as the recent #FergusonDecision. Instead, the information is focused primarily on “voting rights.” This is historically correct and important, but I think we lose something in the memories of Viola Liuzzo or of Rev. James Reeb when we avoid saying that they were the victims of racially motivated acts of violence as white people standing up for the broader civil rights of black people. And although Jimmie Lee Jackson was certainly killed because of his efforts to vote, the four girls killed in the 1963 KKK bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham were unquestionably killed because they were black. The specific fight for voting rights was only the spark that ignited the massive bomb of race based tension that had been building since Emancipation 100 years earlier. I applaud the efforts of my friends working on the Living Legacy Project, and among them are some of the bolder voices in Unitarian Universalism; they are my inspiration. But I see the hesitance to name the events in Selma for what what they were as part of our general fear in the face of boldness and I want to use this space to call on all Unitarian Universalists to name this tragedy for what it continues to be: the legacy of deeply rooted and brutal racism in America.
Losing the ability to state this painful truth says that we are willing to let fear temper our boldness. Is this what we are teaching/learning in seminary? Apparently, we have an incredible amount of work to do if we are actually going to live into any kind of real spiritual calling. Let us find a way to live our truth, feeling all of our pain, seeing all of our wounds, and tending to them with the healing salve of love as equals in humanity.
Let us live our faith.