On June 25th 2019, more than 100 UUs joined Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed, Dr. Wilburn Hayden, and Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana to learn more about anti-Black racism in Canada and within our UU Community. The event began with opening words and a few minutes defining the intention for the evening as an opportunity to listen, deeply, for understanding. Each speaker then shared their personal, and professional perspectives which were insightful and often raw. Attendees were invited to breakout sessions to discuss what they had learned during the evening, and what they found to be hopeful in the midst of so much pain and protest.
The discussions in the breakout sessions were recorded by notetakers and shared when the full group reconvened following the breakout sessions. Overwhelmingly, participants commented that they were moved, often to tears, by the experiences and comments from the presenters and that they were hungry for more opportunities to discuss how to confront and work to dismantle racism. There is, again, the recognition that change is necessary now and requires hard work, honest self-reflection for non-black people, and consistent advocacy.
In the coming days, the CUC will make an edited version of the meeting and presentations available on our Youtube channel. Summaries of the presenters’ speaking notes are available so that those who were not able to attend can experience parts of this important discussion. Stay tuned for upcoming opportunities to learn about and combat racism.
From our presenters:
Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed: Let me begin my reflections by offering words from Tim Tyson’s address at the Granville County’s Human Relations Commission Annual Banquet, September 2004:
“…lean into it. I am talking about racial discomfort. I have certainly felt my share of it, through the course of my work, and I recommend racial discomfort to you. Lean into it. That is, doing exactly the opposite of your first instinct, which is to retreat as fast as possible and is also perfectly logical. None of us wants to feel uncomfortable. But there is no way we can have a fruitful and candid conversation about race in an interracial setting and always feel comfortable. But it won’t kill you to feel a little uncomfortable. Just go ahead, lean into it, and listen. Listen to other people, of course, but listen to your discomfort. It will teach you a lot. You’ll be okay. And we’ll all get better at this.”
White folks don’t get it because most often, buffered as they are by white privilege, it does not touch them directly as it does black men who, almost universally, have been carded as I have been – or worse.
Full reflection here
Dr. Wilburn Hayden: Racism is Racism: Canadian racism is often cited as different from USA racism, but racism is racism. White supremacy is just as real in Canada as in the USA. Discrimination and segregation (by law or tradition) are racist. Canadian “colour-blindness” erases black lives and extends the legacy of colonialism and slavery as witnessed through the lens of black injustices, poverty, and exclusion.
Full reflection here
Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana: I believe a faith community to be about hard stuff of life and death and everything in between. I do not see religious communities’ goal or mission to be the pursuit of comfort of its members. UU institutions should resist this urge. I see them as safe spaces for people to face hard truths, to ask difficult questions, to grow as human beings and develop values for which they can live by or die for.
Anti-black racism is a pressing issue. Black people within and outside our communities are hurting. The current moment is full of hope. But black people and their allies will need to keep demanding change. They will need to keep the tension high. Change will come if dismantling anti-black racism is seen for what it is: spiritual work.
Transformation is coming but it will not come without our boldness and leadership.
Full reflection here
Resources for Education and Reflection:
These conversations about racism, while not easy, are critically important. We have a growing list of resource suggestions.
We also offer these recent additions:
On Being hosts a conversation with Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility and Resmaa Menakem, Minneapolis-based trauma specialist and author of My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. https://onbeing.org/programs/robin-diangelo-and-resmaa-menakem-in-conversation/
Article “This could be a turning point” by Jim Corrigall found on page 5 of the latest edition of the UK publication The Inquirer, The Unitarian and Free Christian Paper. The article outlines the writer’s impressions of a Black Lives Matter event very similar to our own. https://www.inquirer.org.uk/pages/download/issue-7991?wpdmdl=431&refresh=5f076d39cefaf1594322233
Unmasking Racism: A CBC virtual town hall on how to dismantle systemic racism against Indigenous, Black and people of colour. https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1752283203533
Read the CUC’s Statement on Mourning the Deaths of More People of Colour
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