How Does Racism Manifest In A UU Church?

How does
racism manifest itself at A UU Congregation?

From a long-time Congregational Member in a Large UUA Congregation:

1. White people expecting people of color to do the work of dismantling

2. White people expecting people of color to explain racism to them

3. White people not willing to do the work of learning the history of

4. Worship services that are focused on the experience of white people


White people remaining disengaged in remedying the difficulties
experienced by communities of culture

6. White people choosing to live in white neighborhoods

7. White people avoiding communities of color

8. No portraits or murals displaying people of color or their struggle in

9. Nothing on the street that says this is a place for people of color

10. White people dominating and
controlling worship services

11. Meetings scheduled at times
that people of color cannot attend

12. All worship services in

13. Congregants ignorant of UU
participation in slave trade, Indian boarding schools, and racist attitudes by
Unitarian and Universalist congregations and leaders

14. White people antagonistic towards
affirmative action

15. White people antagonistic
towards restitution

16. White people uncomfortable
with physical movement during worship services

17. White people uncomfortable
with shouting during worship services

18. White people antagonistic
toward people of color

19. White people antagonistic
towards people of color gatherings

20. White people not supporting
people of color gatherings

21. People of color not
supporting people of color gatherings

22. White people ignorant of
white privilege

23. White people not willing to
participate in white ally groups

24. White people ignorant of our
shared analysis of racism

25. White people dominating

26. People of color not informed
regarding decisions that affect them

27. People of color not included
in decisions that affect them

28. People of color assumed to be
interested in racism

29. People of color assumed to be
experts on racism

30. Hostility towards people who
are half white claiming “People of Color” identity

31. White people challenging the
identity of people of color

32. White people claiming the
identity of people of color

33. White people who hold
stereotypic views of people of color

34. People of color who hold
stereotypic views of other people of color

35. People of color who hold
stereotypic views of themselves

36. White people judging people
of color harshly (“I told you so”)

37. People of color judging
themselves harshly

38. People of color leaders not
receiving the leadership development support they need

39. People of color leaders not
being mentored

40. Lack of people of color
leadership development

41. People of color not
supporting their leaders

42. People of color leaders not
being accountable to people of color in the congregation and community

43. People of color leaders not
being accountable to our shared analysis of racism

44. People of color distancing
themselves from other people of color

45. White parents of children of
color not connecting them with adults of color who can be role
models/mentors/god parents

46. White parents of children of
color not connecting them with communities of color

47. White parents of children of
color not connecting them with the culture of their biological parents

48. Not teaching our children
about racism

49. Not teaching our children the
whole truth about our history

50. Painting buildings using
colors that are pleasing to whites

51. Assuming people of color are

52. Assuming people of color are

53. Asking people of color to
speak only about their personal experience, not their analysis of racism in the

54. Marginalizing people of color

55. Controlling people of color

56. Tokenizing people of color

57. Patronizing people of color

58. Not communicating with people
of color when they make a mistake

59. Gossiping about people of

60. White people using elements
from cultures that are not their own

61. White people singing songs
that are inappropriate for white people to sing

62. White people explaining/teaching
the culture of people of color

63. White people pretending to be
people of color

64. White people pretending that
they have nothing to do with racism

65. White people pretending that
they don’t have any prejudice

66. Decision making processes
that are exclusive

67. Majority rule (learn the
formal consensus process instead)

68. Robert’s Rules of Order

69. Lack of transparency in
decision making

70. Secretive decision making

71. Informal decision making

72. Rushed decision making

73. People of color not knowing
what their getting into when they are recruited (inadequate job descriptions)

74. Chairs of committees who
develop agendas without including concerns of other members of the committee

75. Chairs of committees who are
ignorant and oblivious to the power they have

76. Chairs of committees who
abuse their power

77. Chairs of committees who shut
down other members

78. Chairs of committees who
don’t listen

79. Chairs of committees who are

80. Committees who are ignorant
of our shared analysis of racism

81. Board members who are
ignorant of our shared analysis of racism

82. Church leaders and staff who
refuse and resist participation in Jubilee workshops

83. Power structures that lack
accountability to people of color

84. Ministers who are out of
relationship with people of color in the congregation

85. Ministers who distance
themselves from racism

86. Ministers who are clueless of
the power and privilege they have

87. Ministers who are ignorant of
our shared analysis of racism

88. Ministers who dominate and
excessively control worship services

89. Ministers who are unwilling
or unable to provide people of color with the support they need

90. Inadequate support for youth

91. Inadequate process to assure
new members learn our shared analysis of racism

92. Inadequate process to assure
children and youth learn our shared analysis of racism

93. Inadequate process to assure
members learn the history of racism

94. Inadequate representation of
people of color in music programming

95. Inadequate community building
with communities of color

96. Inadequate library resources

97. White people selecting people
of color leaders

98. People of color organizations
not empowered to select/nominate their own leaders

99. White board members who
pretend they represent the interests of the whole congregation

100. People of color board members
who pretend to speak for people of color when they are not in an accountable
relationship with people of color in the congregation.

101. People assuming people of the
same race are related

102. People assuming people of the
same race know each other

103. People assuming people of the
same race want to know each other

104. People assuming people of the
same race like each other

105. People assuming people of the
same race agree with each other

106. People assuming people of the
same race should agree with each other

107. People assuming people of
color are recent immigrants

108. People assuming people of
color live in a bad neighborhood

109. People assuming people of
color are just now learning English

110. People assuming people of
color live some horrible existence and if they don’t they don’t have any right
to complain about anything

111. People who assert that if you
don’t live some horrible existence then you don’t have any right to identify as
a Person of Color.

112. People assuming people of
color are lucky to live in America and shouldn’t complain.

113. People who assert that if you
weren’t born in Latin America than you have no right to identify as Latino or

114. People who assert that if you
have an English surname, you have no right to identify as Latino or Hispanic.

115. People who assert that if you
don’t speak Spanish, you have no right to identify as Latino or Hispanic.


9 responses to “How Does Racism Manifest In A UU Church?

  1. good list.

    People who assume that Native Americans were hunters and gathers, and that the Pilgrims taught the Natives to plant corn, squash, beans, tomatos. People that assume that the Europeans found a howling wilderness. People who have a need to explain how genocide is too strong a word.

    Most liberals assume racism is an bad attitude, so they don’t “see habits and their use of institutional power as racist – its an entitlement.

  2. The apparent contradictions within the list speak to how complicated the dynamics are. What can we assume, if anything?

  3. I have never been to a UU church, so cannot speak to that.

    However, in a broader context, much of this list is (in my opinion) ridiculous. In my experience, in 2005 America, people of color have EVERY opportunity…and even a leg up on many others.

    YES, there are sterotypes…and indeed your list is full of stereotypes for whites too.

    My advice is to STOP feeling sorry for ourselves, for whatever reason. Anyone can make it in America…just ask the average Korean immigrant.

  4. Nothing in Joey’s list should make any one defensive. The conquest of America Natives, conquest of Mexico, enslavement of Africans, misuse of Asian labor are facts of US history which have created habits of the heart that affects everyone in the nation, we change these habits by recognizing the problem and dealing with it as a problem of right relationship.

    Yet, it is a puzzle. I once preached a gentle sermon on gender exclusive language, and I could see the males in the pews become distraught, they had not personally created the linguistic habits of exclusive language, and had no stake in Male God Imagery, yet they felt that this was a criticism of them…personally.

    Narcissism is the character disorder of this nation, and our defense of our false self image is its manifestation, preventing us from the conversations needed to create right relations.

  5. FYI – I didn’t write this list, but have posted it with permissions from a friend who is a Person of Color and Latino in a UUA Congregation.

  6. Joseph-

    Thanks for this thought-provoking list.

    Clyde’s response made me think of something that happened just last night. Last night, I taught Unit 1 of All Souls Tulsa’s UU history course (Our American Roots), about the Pilgrims and religious freedom.

    All was going swimmingly well until I stopped and said “OK, what’s missing from this unit?” Stunned silence.

    Then, I had the nerve to ask “If we’re going to claim (and rightly so) the religious heritage of the Pilgrims, what is our responsibility as their descendants to Native Americans, given the genocide that followed the colonization of North America by white people? What would a Native American UU think about us proudly claiming this heritage?”

    Oooh, boy did that raise some hackles.

    It was a good discussion, but not an easy one. Glad I added it to the otherwise very whitewashed curriculum. Stay tuned for more button-pushing as I teach the remaining nine units.

    in peace,

  7. Oh, Michael! You wacky seminarian!
    LOL. This reminds me of when I was in Florida with Elandria and her parents for a Sunday service. It was right before Christmas and the minister was giving a pleasant sermon on making our congregations a home, or something along those lines. At one point she said something like, “When our forebearers arrived in this land, they forged a way of life based on freedom and liberty; they made the way ….” and so on.

    I remember thinking, “Well, maybe when YOUR forebearers arrived in this land, that’s what they were doing ….” I looked at Elandria and she just looked at me with a knowing expression. But the minister was very nice and during Coffee Hour neither Elandria nor I brought up the issue with her.

    I would not want to deny the minister her history, or even try to “correct” her. But what I feel, sometimes very strongly, is the lack of a voice in the pulpit that understands how that could make me twinge. I am accustomed to hearing and seeing things like this everywhere – white people taking for granted that everyone celebrates their history with the same sentiment.

    What is most curious is how if I had “corrected” the minister at the Florida church, surely I would have made her uncomfortable to some degree or another, and I would have felt guilty for it! Also, I imagined that if she had mentioned it to another white person, they might have found fault in me for being “politically correct!”

    For this reason – and also because I am shy and she is a minister – I kept my thoughts to myself. What is just one more small feeling of disappointment compared to all the drama that could ensue had I mentioned it?

    How could the minister have said this differently? For me, if she had simply said, “For some of our ancestors …” or “The ideal had been ….” or “In some areas, our ancestors were inspired to call for freedom.” She could have even said, “My ancestors” instead of “ours.” At least then, I would have gotten the sense that her thoughts about “us” included someone like me (and Elandria and her parents).

    Please, keep us posted on the rest of the units!

  8. I will ask my chapter (the Florida UU Minister’s Association) how we could do this better. Our retreat begins on Monday, which is Native American Memorial Day, so they’ll be keen for some check up. (I think it is a day off for some other reason.)

    I have some ideas, but I think that perhaps if we talk about as a case study, rather than as an accusation, even Rev. Ms. “Pilgrim Pride” might take it in and do different next time.

  9. I have to say that I have met some of my best White Anti-Racist Allies, en masse, in the UUA. This, I have deeply appreciated.

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