By Sara Gondwe, Chair, Racial Justice Steering Committee
HaHa Probably you have. Perhaps you are aware that I have sons whom society identifies as African American. Did it occur to you that they also have a White identity so it would make just as much sense to label them as White? We Americans are experts in putting people in boxes and labelling them as “other.” It is not a very comfortable place to be. It is alienating and divisive. When some police officers see them as “other,” we know there can be deadly consequences. Consequences that have led many of us to believe that “Black Lives Don’t Matter.” The statistics of racial discrimination and harassment are well documented. My sons are good “kids” just like yours. Including my step-son, all 4 of my sons have spent a night in jail in 4 different cities.
In our own everyday conversations we often describe someone as being Black but do not identify someone as White. Is it because we think of ourselves as part of the dominant culture? We think of “others” as having a race, but not us?
What does it mean when someone points out that we should deal with Black on Black violence, especially in the context of White police officers killing unarmed People of Color folks? Do you hear anyone talking about White on White violence? Comparing vigils held for murdered People of Color, a term which includes both Black and Brown-skinned people, with vigils for Black on Black violence is like comparing apples and coconuts.
Can there be a comparison between authority figures whose job it is to “protect and serve,” but instead, shoot first, give no aid or call for ambulance, with Black on Black violence? We have all seen the videos on T.V. or Facebook of horrific instances of police abuse with a seemingly total disregard for human life. People of Color have been telling us for over 300 years of White brutality and atrocities. Now we are listening to them because of technology? Aw, the benefits of White Privilege continue to down-trod on our brothers and sisters of Color.
For the first time in my 47 years as a Unitarian Universalist I am wondering if I can continue on as a member in a predominantly White church. I often feel alienated, yet realize, it is because we are just unaware of our own White privilege and how that has affected our relationship with People of Color. People of Color visit our church — and yes, we are very welcoming — but they seldom return. Just like you, I am in pain, with what is going on in our country. However, it is perhaps a deeper pain because, although not Black, I watch people I love suffer and know that I cannot protect them for being “in the right place with the wrong police officer.”
There is Hope! I believe in the UU faith with all my heart which will sustain me. UUA has set the path for change by officially supporting the Black Lives Movement. Our own congregation is considering following suit with deliberate and open dialogue in Cottage Meetings. Check out our soon to be announced Adult Faith Education classes which will have a focus on Racial Justice for All. I believe in you!
Lastly, and most importantly, a shout out to those of you who have reached out to our UU members/friends with People of Color in their immediate or extended families. Please let them know you care and will work to impact positive change in our systemic racist institutions, if you choose to do so. A big thank you to that special person who offered his home to my family of 5 last week so that we can get away from “stop and frisk” police policies in my immediate environment. No names, but his first name starts with an “M”. M meaning — a million thanks for his perception and thinking outside of the box.