We at UUCA rightly take pride in our commitment to social justice. Our principles, our values call us to be advocates for change to make the world more fair, compassionate, and equitable, to disrupt patterns of historic wrong that oppress so many people and endanger the Earth. Yet, nearly always, it seems, the hardest kind of change that we are faced with is not in the world but in ourselves.
When you think about it, that’s not surprising, since some of the toughest problems that face us are the result of deeply-ingrained practices and thoughts, ways of thinking or doing things that are woven into the fabric of how things seem to work, that we don’t really even think about. Yet, that is precisely why we need to examine them.
This is especially true when we’re dealing with the heritage of white supremacy. Those of us with white skins pretty much get that there are patterns of oppression that put people of color at a disadvantage simply because of their color and also give us privileges simply because of our whiteness. It’s not something that we or they have a choice about; it’s marbled into our culture.
So, part of our work, as people who love justice, is to do what we can to change that culture, to disrupt assumptions, and to use our privilege, our advantages, to correct disparities that result from them. Much of our most important social justice work in the last several years has been focused precisely on that. And it’s helped us make important and lasting connections in communities of color and with other organizations allied with us in this work.
But as we get deeper into this work, we see how much further we have to go. Once we are in conversation with people of color, strategizing next steps, we find that even how we organize tasks can insinuate white supremacy culture into the work. For example, we may be stingy in how we allot decision-making power, seeking to hold onto it ourselves, rather than sharing it. Or we may bring a hyper sense of urgency or perfectionism to the work that stymies our effort. All of these, we’re coming to realize, are artifacts of the prevailing white culture that make it hard for people of color to fully participate with us.
To help sensitize myself to this I am participating, along with about a half-dozen UUCA members, in a webinar called “Changing Systems, Changing Ourselves” that helps address these issues. I’ll include links at the bottom of this column to some of the resources I’ve gleaned from this training that I hope you will consider taking some time to look over during the summer. This is all part of the inner work that we need to be doing if we are going to be effective advocates and allies in the work of justice.
Here are some resources from “Changing Sytems, Changing Ourselves:
“I Love My Undocumented People” – a 3-minute YouTube video
Deconstructing White Privilege with Dr. Robin DiAngelo – a 22-minute YouTube video
White Supremacy Culture – a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture which show up in our organizations
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister