Tomorrow, 5 years of seminary and many more years of discernment will come to fruition for me as I find out where I will begin my journey as a Unitarian Universalist minister. For all of us who have been in search this winter, this has been a time fraught with anxiety and punctuated by incredible affirmation of our abilities as well as painful reminders that we cannot be everything to everyone. I am grateful to everyone who has been with me on this journey and particularly to the incredible congregations who were generous enough to explore the potential for building ministry together. I am overwhelmed with their love.
And in the midst of this, Unitarian Universalism is in pain (Critics decry ‘white supremacy’/UU World – March 27, 2017). Once again, we are being asked to look deeply at the self perpetuating patterns of white supremacy that continue to dog our efforts to be “multi-cultural”. Even as I launch my nascent ministry, I cannot be silent on this issue; particularly as a black gay man. We have stepped into a new time of consciousness in the United States and I believe the world, where we are being asked to show what we are truly made of. I am proud to soon count myslef among dynamic and diverse Unitarian Universalist religious leaders and I believe in Unitarian Universalism, but not with an eye that only looks back. Fixation with the past is the same crime of our government that speaks of “founding fathers” and “original framers” to fix the ongoing terrorism of black and brown bodies and the epidemic of violence against women and the catastrophic marginalization of human sexuality, differing abilities and mental perceptions. I must see Unitarian Universalism looking forward. We cannot be sentimentally bound to the tools and structures that have reinforced patriarchy and subtle (and not so subtle) racism. We must listen, we must learn, we must be humble, we must do better. We can be more.
“Inherent worth and dignity” is not enough,
when “worth” is code for “white”
and dignity is spelled “m-a-l-e.”
This slippery intention
to name us all the same,
too often strides
into assumptions about perspective,
privilege, agency and pride.
“Inherent worth and dignity”
refuses religiosity, and will not bow in unison
or hold a single vision of the divine.
Yet while it mutters a refrain that tries to contain
the vast complexities of every human being
it seems to sound just like the same Western God.
Because “Inherent worth and dignity”
is the language of the colony
that doesn’t know the pain of slavery in its genes,
that ignores its culpability for Holocaust,
that continues to bastardize native people in ritual and song,
that strains against translation,
and always leaves women one step behind.
“Inherent worth and dignity”
Is carved from the dissonant language of white supremacy.
It resonates with paternal principles grown from privilege,
and rises as an onanistic declaration,
excited most by promises of self-righteous satisfaction.
Inherent for you
But abhorrent to her;
Worthy to me
But valueless to them;
Dignity to him
That erases xyr …
“Inherent worth and dignity” is not enough
In a language where the word nigger still sours every tongue.
We must have more.
We must have freedom
We must be seen
We must be heard
Un-silenced in a full-throated and triumphant cry.
We must have more than the language of the oppressor
for this dream of freedom to grow living wings
and finally take to the sky.
5 thoughts on “More”
Best of luck! Whatever lucky congregation gets you, I hope it is not too far from the Bay Area.
Thanks so much for writing this. As a white person who loved Unitarianism but ultimately felt they had to leave their community because of a refusal to consider these issues, it feels hopeful to read your words and to hear that UU is finally struggling with them.
Moving words–a wonderful poem of promise and rallying cry combined. Congratulations and all good wishes on your next adventure!
Thank you! Blessings on your journey! a beautiful and insightful reflection. I would humbly add that looking back (not staying stuck in past patterns of thinking and doing) is sometimes necessary and even critical to our framing historical analysis of our condition. This looking back is known in some cultures as “Sankofa” We at DRUUMM have adopted it as a spiritual practice and a way to connect with the struggles, courage, stength, and wisdom of our ancestors. Lest we forget.