If Nikuyah Walker were a white man, rather than a woman of color, the article that appeared in The Daily Progress on Saturday, November 4, 2017 would have been quite different. We would have read about his passionate engagement with city officials. There might have been an acknowledgment that he could be a hothead at times, but his no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is-in-no-uncertain-terms approach would be seen by many as refreshing.
But Nikuyah Walker is not a white man. She’s a brown-skinned woman, and she’s both angry about racial injustices and willing to express that anger directly and bluntly. Since the days when slave owners feared that their “property” would rise up to reclaim their right to be recognized as human, the image of the angry black man (or woman) has been seared into the American consciousness. From Nat Turner to Malcolm X, whites have always preferred it when people of color fought for justice politely.
Most of the time, white supremacy does not announce itself with Klan robes and torches. It perniciously acts in ways that most of us who identify as white are not even aware of, yet which support and sustain the systems and structures that elevate to a higher level people and institutions that conform to white cultural norms. Whatever the conscious intent of the Progress, the language used to describe Ms. Walker is just as effective as anything Jason Kessler might say to emphasize the place that people of color are afforded in our society. That it ran as the major headline, just a few days before the election, amounts to editorializing against her candidacy.
We are not writing to take a position one way or the other regarding Nikuyah Walker’s candidacy, but we are committed—as Unitarian Universalists—to naming and fighting white supremacy wherever it shows itself, especially where it might otherwise seem invisible.
~ The Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom, the Board of Trustees, and Racial Justice Committee of Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church-Unitarian Universalist on behalf of the congregation