Engaging with Youth about Antiracism

Aug 22, 2016 | News

Recently, our Director of Religious Education, Aisha Hauser, and Interim Minister, Rev. Dr. Elaine Beth Peresluha were quoted in an article in UU World.

Here is an excerpt:

Aisha Hauser, director of religious education for East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, Washington, and chair of the diversity and inclusion team of the Liberal Religious Educators Association, believes in taking a holistic approach with antiracism education that includes everyone. “I don’t do antiracism work with youth and children first. The parents have to be comfortable with having these conversations,” she says. But she makes sure that youth are always invited to the table. Last year, in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the marches in Selma, Alabama, she focused on the Children’s March in 1963 in the Story for All Ages portion of the Sunday service and in the RE lesson that followed. Another recent multigenerational event at East Shore was the viewing of the film Dear White People. After the movie, the participants—who ranged in age from early teens to eighties—broke into small groups for discussion. The church has also hosted workshops with Robin DiAngelo, a professor of multicultural education, who coined the term “white fragility.”

It’s vital that UU churches involve youth in antiracism work, church leaders say. But congregations who have waded into this territory know that it’s not easy. “Start the conversation and understand what it means to be intentional, and know the conversations are going to be hard,” Hauser says.

Because of the predominantly white culture of many UU congregations, it’s important to be sensitive, says the Rev. Dr. Elaine Beth Peresluha, who was senior interim minister in Milwaukee through April, when she moved to East Shore. First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee incorporated input from local community leaders, including Reggie Jackson of America’s Black Holocaust Museum, who vetted lesson plans, consulted, and provided teacher training and adult education classes.

“Your own intrinsic bias can pop up in ways that you don’t expect, so it’s important to have people of color who are collaborators,” Peresluha says.