I am voting for the 8th Principle because BIPOC Unitarian Universalists are telling us White Unitarian Universalists that this addition to our seven principles is necessary. BIPOC UUs are telling us about their experiences and their needs and I believe them. I want to learn about that experience and work to change it for the better. To me, accepting the truth of another person’s experience, and the role I play in that experience, is a deep form of love. It is a scary, painful love, full of unknowns. It is young love. The 8th Principle is asking me to commit to the creation of mature love. Mature love includes an element of selflessness and asks me to consider how I can change myself so that the experience of others is different. I want to develop mature love at East Shore. I believe adopting the 8th Principle is a way to state our commitment to that love. I hope East Shore will make the commitment.
Growing up as a UU, I was never really aware of how white our faith is until I reached high school and started to participate in race caucusing at our bi-annual conferences. Caucusing is something that is mandatory in some form or another at our youth conferences, though it takes different forms every year. However, a pattern that we saw every con was the size of the BIPOC caucus. It has always been extremely small, with on average 10-15 members out of the 150 or so population of con. One vivid moment that I still hold from these amazing experiences was from the Fall Con of my senior year. We were doing caucusing based on race and we were going to have report backs of what we discussed in our small groups with the whole community. The BIPOC caucus had finished a little bit late, so we didn’t make it back to the dining hall right on time. When we arrived, they had already started to report back without us and didn’t leave room for any of us to sit or make any move to make room either. Since there wasn’t any room for us, we had to sit on the ground in the front of the room. I remember having a staff meeting that night about what happened and having to have a discussion with the whole community about how what had happened was unacceptable and how it was a breach in our covenant that we had created early that weekend.
Later that year, I learned about the 8th Principle in more detail from friends and loved the idea of it from the start. Supporting the 8th Principle is extremely important to me because it will allow us to better continue our journey as UUs to dismantle racism and oppression, not only in our faith but in our greater communities. We need to continue to be held accountable for our actions if we want to end this fight. We already live the 8th Principle in our everyday lives, even if we don’t realize it. Now is the time to support the 8th Principle and continue the hard work we have started.
My family and I joined East Shore in 2013. East Shore is my first experience with the UU tradition. I was drawn to this community by its dedication to service and its advocacy towards justice. These qualities for a church were in stark contrast to the fundamentalist church of my youth. I saw UUs putting their beliefs into action and making a difference in the larger community.
UU history is filled with people and churches who stood on the right side of change, supporting Civil Rights and Marriage Equality as examples. In 1997, UUA passed a resolution at GA to become an Anti-Racist, Anti-Oppression, Multi-Cultural Organization. This was 24 years ago. If we are honest, what steps have we made towards this resolution? It is time to renew our commitment to being an Anti-Racist community by passing the 8th Principle.
While being part of East Shore, I found myself being challenged and becoming more curious and open. I have been able to live most of my life and not see any of the racism or oppression around me. I will be forever grateful to East Shore for hosting a White Supremacy Teach In. It ripped off the veil that was clouding my perspective and exposed a new, truer view. I am not being hyperbolic when I say, this experience was life-changing for me. I see our country’s racist history and the oppressive systems at work and learn more each day. I am committed to a future where we have created a beloved, anti-racist, diverse community. I would love to share this work with my fellow UUs at East Shore.
White America is divided. White America must decide to give up white supremacy. UUs can serve as an example of a faith community which commits to dismantling white supremacy and racism within ourselves and our community.
This is not an intellectual exercise where we can stand back and watch. There is a backlash happening against racial justice in this country. As a society, we are moving backwards, and we cannot let this continue to happen. If you need an example, take look at the draconian voter suppression laws being enacted across the country. The fight for racial justice is not someone else’s fight. This is all our fight. If you are considering waiting to join, ask yourself, if not now, then when? If not me, then who? We are the right people at the right time for this work. It is time to put ourselves and our church in the front and let everyone know what side we are on. We are on the side of Racial Justice. Passing the 8th Principle makes it clear where we stand. We will work to dismantle oppression and racism in everything we do. This may be scary, but if we walk it together, we can lift each other up. We do not have to be the entire chain. We just need to be the strongest link we can be. Our actions on behalf of justice, love and life will be transformative. We do not have to know how to do this work perfectly before we can start. As we move forward, we will learn more and grow in ourselves and in our knowledge of the world.
We are not to blame for racism, white supremacy, or any other systems of oppression. We are responsible and accountable for dismantling them.
I will leave you with a quote from Ijeoma Olou. She says, “You have to get over the fear of facing the worst in yourself. You should instead fear unexamined racism. Fear the thought that right now, you could be contributing to the oppression of others and you do not know it. But do not fear those who bring that oppression to light. Do not fear the opportunity to do better.”
Marcy Langrock, current Treasurer and Board member of East Shore
My first memory of racial injustice was on TV in 1963. I was 9 years old and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. People who looked (to me) just like my parents and classmates were being shot with fire hoses and charged with growling dogs in the streets of their town as they demonstrated for the right to vote. I was horrified and frightened. I had never seen people treated so harshly and by men in uniforms of the police who I was taught represented the law. I was completely sickened and enraged at the obvious injustice and hatred.
Raised Roman Catholic, aside from the mythology and dogma, the values of mercy I was taught were fundamental, eternal, and essential to me to this day. We are all responsible to care for each other and treat each other with respect. We are to feed and clothe the needy, as well as take care of the sick. And as to race, the Catholic Church taught all of humanity is equal, as all of humanity was created in the image and likeness of God. No one race is above or superior to another.
So, way back then, I knew in my heart and soul that what I saw on TV was injustice and no people should ever be treated this way. I didn’t need to study anything more or hear statistics or have it phrased optimally. I knew it was wrong and needed to be fought against.
My own grandparents were immigrants and poor. Little to no education. Could not speak English well. My parents were bilingual and subjected to lots of discrimination, as more recent immigrant groups tend to be. My social studies classes directly told us each wave of immigrants started at the bottom with the crap jobs and crap houses. If they worked really hard and the right god loved them, that group would slowly move upward, and the next wave of “others” would come in and replace them at the bottom.
This was seen as a wonderful opportunity and an example of the American Dream. Know your place, accumulate wealth and maybe someday you can look down on others. The issues of how native people who already lived here or how people who were enslaved and brought to the USA were to fit into this dream of upward mobility were not addressed in my texts. But this did not sound like a fair system or wonderful dream to me.
I learned about Unitarianism from my uncle. He was a union president and a social activist. He walked next to Cesar Chavez with the farm workers striking in California and I was inspired by him. He was also the first Unitarian and declared atheist I ever met and his standing up for human rights was the reason I ever thought about Unitarianism as a choice for myself.
Just treatment for all is a key value for me and why I chose to be politically active all my life. Many decades have passed since I watched people fight for their rights to vote on tv as a child, and I had hoped for more progress and more justice. At this point in my life, I have little time or patience left.
Dismantling racism and oppression in ourselves and our institutions–these are not new concepts or new values. At East Shore in the past few years, we have had the luxury of many teachers and book discussions to broaden our awareness of the realities of the world we live in, even if we ourselves do not personally face injustice. We have the opportunity to publicly declare our values and align with other churches who are covenanting to these values.
We are not uneducated, but willfully ignorant, heartless, and soulless if at this point in history we cannot choose to embrace a simple covenant to hold ourselves accountable to uphold racial justice and stop systemic oppression. If we don’t stand for this, what do we stand for?
I have been doing “diversity” work for two decades, feeling a moral imperative to help create justice in our world. It wasn’t until I came to East Shore that I learned that this is spiritual work – deeply central to who we are as spiritual and human beings. I discovered that it is not only about creating equity for others, it is also about liberating white people, most of us, from a destructive illusion of who we are and from the barriers that block us from our own humanity and from our siblings of color.
I dove into racial justice work at East Shore, so grateful to have a place where my passion was welcome. I then encountered some new dimensions to this work that transformed my own journey. One was the discovery that most of what I thought about the history of racism and slavery had been “white-washed” in the history books and in my education. I learned – from books, films and classes – that racism was an intentional creation by white wealth to divide the working poor against each other and use the white poor to maintain control of the rest – motivated by scraps of advantage and the human desire to be above someone else. I learned that our federal and state governments both supported and instigated discrimination, segregation and oppression from the beginning, and found ways to suppress the truth and create stories that covered it for those least impacted, the white majority.
A second was the recognition that white supremacy culture has been socialized into us all, mostly without our awareness. We learned it by osmosis from the stories told about history and stories that continue to be told about race and power today. I discovered it inside of me, and in all the loving wonderful people in my life. It is not our fault, and we do have the power to overcome it if we work side by side to wake up to what is going on automatically inside of us and permeating the culture and institutions in our lives. I have begun to see how our automatic perceptions and actions come from our dominant, white-centered culture and perpetuate it in all parts of our environment.
Third, I’ve expanded and deepened my connections with Black and other people of color, through relationships and also through books, films and courses. I am growing my capacity to see things through their eyes, feel things a bit through their feelings (of course they are not all the same). I was jarred by the disparity between my own outrage at George Floyd’s murder and the gut-wrenching response of my Black friends. I did not feel that George could be my brother or son. I felt, but could not feel in my deepest gut, the complex fear, rage and weariness at yet one more Black life lost to white disdain, dismissal. Why? I am focusing on nurturing that capacity. I am learning to see a bit how it feels to be a person of color living in a white world that cannot recognize and empathize with their experiences. I heard the call of Black and Brown UUs to be seen, to have these disparities acknowledged, to be the faith that we promise to be, to embrace their belonging and spiritual needs in all we think and do. And I’ve recognized that decade after decade, we have disappointed them, concerned primarily with the spiritual comfort of our white colleagues.
The 8th Principle is a chance to open our hearts and minds to those of color who embrace our UU faith and values and embrace us as their siblings in spirit. It is a chance to work together with them to liberate us all from the inhumanity of a culture built on separation, white comfort and hierarchy. It hurts all of us, and we have a chance to build something full of humanity, love and deep connection.
When I was 12 my brother went to Italy and an exchange student from Uganda came to be my big brother. 50 people in my town outraged my parents with a petition that he not come because he was expected to be black. In college I was a counselor at a very diverse summer camp led by my first mentor, an African American HS teacher. Five decades later I still have friends from then. In the late 80s I became a UU so my kids would have some moral education, and three years later my brother became UUA President. His college roommate, who took me to visit his English class at Harvard when I was 14, Bill Sinkford, succeeded my brother, and at GA 2019 in Spokane I watched appalled as Bill came into a meeting in a wheelchair and was ignored by nearly all, although he was the immediate past president of the UUA. I served on the Board of Trustees of East Shore with Elaine Peresluha and Aisha Hauser and Jason Puracal, and watched many aggressions within our church, much well-intended systemic racism, go denied and unrecognized. At that GA I met Paula Cole Jones and heard her lecture on the beloved community being a “community of communities” as a model going forward for us UUs, and then learned about her grassroots leadership of a movement to bring congregations to adopt the 8th Principle one by one to bring it from the people to the GA, rather than from the Board to the people. Right strategy, right thing to do, and long overdue. I signed up, this spring, with her private Facebook 8th Principle Learning Group. You can, too!
We UUs ARE THE vanguard religion, out in front in the 1960s civil rights movement, and out in front for gay marriage, and we belong out in front on antiracism in full alliance with BLUU and our BIPOC brothers and sisters. Dismantling racism is the only way forward for our democracy, in my opinion.
I retired last June, and expect to be around a long time. I am committed to service as my personal route to meaning. I’ve had enough personal hell through two divorces and recovery from alcoholism to last a lifetime. I want to see my congregation get off the dime of old, white, self-satisfaction and move out in front of the most important social movements of our time: antiracism and the climate emergency. The two go hand in hand, not in opposition, but it is harder by far to recruit whites to antiracism than to climate work. In a nutshell, that’s it. If we can’t embrace this, I don’t know why I belong to this congregation.