“Every night a child is born is a Holy night” – Sophia Lyon Fahs
The words above are written on my soul. They are simple and yet they contain a complexity of Unitarian and Universalist belief. The words remind us that life is Sacred. There is no burden of proof to justify that the birth of a child is Holy. Fahs reminds us, one life is not worth more than another. Just as the night we were born is a Holy one, so too is every child Sacred.
Universalism tells us that all are chosen, loved, saved. According to Universalist theology, each of us will be reconciled with God no matter our actions in life. Universalism gives us hope instead of hell. It guides us to be a people of second chances.
Our first principle, the inherent worth and dignity of each person, is deeply linked for me to the Universalism. It compels me to meet each person as I would the Holy. I am anchored in my Faith to the notion that each of us is worthy, Sacred, and chosen.
When Michael Brown laid in the street for four and half hours in Ferguson something in my spirit ached. At that time I was moving to New York and the Eric Garner case rattled a belief I was taught early in my Southern childhood; racism is a Southern problem. These two men were cast as criminals. Lots of people, especially the media, wanted to discuss their arrest records, their character, and the character of their families – as if this were justification to kill someone. Something in me couldn’t stomach the conversations about Mike Brown and whether or not he had just stolen cigars. I imagined my own youthful indiscretions and I’m quite confident that if I had stolen cigars and later interacted with the police, I would still be alive. Michael Brown isn’t. His family lost him and in that loss watched as the media tried to strip their son of his worth and dignity.
“Every night a child is born is a Holy night.”
Universalism shows us the power of second chances. It compels me to say again, and loudly, that a person’s life matters, even if they did steal cigars.
A few months later when Tamir Rice was shot by the police, a year ago this week, for playing in the park with a pellet gun, in an open carry state, within moments of the police arriving on the scene, my heart broke. Tamir was the same age as my own daughter. This other mother’s child was taken and the state found the murder justifiable. No trial. No justice. No peace. Just a mother, who can no longer hold her son, or watch him play, or imagine what he might do with his life.
Someone told me he shouldn’t have been playing with the pellet gun. I keep thinking of my own 12 year old daughter and how she might have been perceived differently, as a white child, were she in the same scenario.
The notion that if people just followed the law, respected authority, and were generally “good,” they would not be targeted or murdered is called respectability politics, and it doesn’t work. We saw this in Charleston when Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, prayed and studied the bible with those gathered, then shot and killed 9 people and wounded 1. These people were in church, one was a senator; the respectability of their character did not protect them from being murdered by a man hoping to incite a race war.
“Every night a child is born is a Holy night.”
As a Unitarian Universalist I want to create a better world. My theology tells me all children are Sacred, but I watch as other mothers have their children taken from them because they were in the wrong neighborhood, they were young and made a mistake, they played in the park.
As a Unitarian Universalist I believe in second chances, but I am watching a justice system where only some people get second chances and others have their lives systematically taken from them due to a complex system rigged so that only a few of us succeed. (Read the New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander for more info on the complexity of institutionalized racism).
If we Unitarian Universalists are to truly build a new way and create a world where there is justice for all, we have to examine our own privilege and the benefits we receive from living in a white supremacist culture. This isn’t easy work. All the buttons get pushed just reading or hearing those words.
Until we are ready to really peel back the lens of our privilege, and acknowledge the way the system benefits us as whites, we will be unable to truly do the work required to dismantle racism. We have to find the “we” in the stories of those who are being oppressed by the dominant system. We cannot identify as part of the larger human family while wearing blinders to our place in the larger system. The lens of privilege is a blinder preventing us from seeing the truths of what it is like to live as a brown or black person in America.
This isn’t easy work. However, it is necessary work. We have to be willing to take the hard look at self if we really want to break the chains of racism. Often it feels overwhelming to even know where to begin. Here are some options to get started, or view it as a check list and do them all.
- Read Waking Up White by Debby Irving
- Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
- Role play how to disrupt the paradigm of racism by practicing what to say when you hear racist comments, jokes, or witness micro-aggressions.
- Read the article I Racist https://thsppl.com/i-racist-538512462265
- Study impact vs intent
- Get involved with Erase Racism NY http://www.eraseracismny.org/