To start my discussion of “Why”, I need to define the Eighth Principle as it relates to East Shore.
“We, the members of the East Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Bellevue, covenant to affirm and promote journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other forms of oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”
My desire to dismantle racism in myself and our nation’s institutions is at the core of my belief systems. I am the second generation of my family to actively try to dismantle racism and oppression. My mother was ostracized in South Africa for teaching non-whites to read and my Uncle was very active in the NAACP. I and my family have benefited from the uneven imbalance of power and influence that is endemic in American Culture for 15 generations. In the last two generations, my parent’s homes and my education were obtained through Federal programs (the GI Bill) that were not available to People of Color. I wish to change all systemic privilege and include all Americans in the benefits of being an American. Why should I have more at the expense of those getting less?
Further, the UUA is evaluating the first Seven Principles and the Eighth principle as a possibility this next year. If enough congregations have passed it, it may be incorporated nationally. So, I am all in on making the Eighth Principle a reality at East Shore and proclaiming to ourselves, our children and the world who we are and what we are about.
I have heard East Shore opposition say, “The Eighth Principle is already covered in the First and the Seventh Principles”. Our principles are a living concept. The first six were adopted in 1985 and the seventh in 1995. And here are my thoughts on the First and Seventh covering systemic racism and oppression:
The First Principle deals with how we treat each other as individuals. It doesn’t address institutional and systemic racism and oppression. The Eighth Principle directly addresses that.
The Seventh Principle talks about the interdependent web of all of us. It only by inference covers the topic of racism in that we do no harm. The Eighth Principle brings accountability into the conversation and is direct.
Last summer, Chief Steve Mylette of the Bellevue Police Department and I were having a conversation about his perspectives at an East Shore BlackLivesMatter Flash Stance. Chief Mylette told me he “actively” recruits candidates for his department who will embody anti-racism in their day-to-day work. In other words, he isn’t just “doing no harm”, but actively working to avoid bias and dismantle racism and oppression. As a result, there is a noticeable difference in the amount of racially charged violence committed by his officers compared to Seattle or Tacoma. Chief Mylette is being active, not passive.
In our Unitarian history, we have always been on the vanguard of social justice: This is no time to lay that mantle down. As a 19 year old, I marched with my Unitarian elders from the Edmonds Unitarian Fellowship in protest against the Vietnam war. Unitarian clergy and lay people stood with and marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. Our Unitarian thinkers and leaders were prominent in the fight for Women’s Suffrage. Many, many of us from East Shore have stood on street corners throughout the eastside to create a conversation around race and privilege.
We are already living the Eighth Principle. Our local police department is working to dismantle racism and oppression. This is why I want to ratify the Eighth Principle at East Shore. I want us to be and be seen as accountable and proactive in the fight to dismantle racism and oppression. This is our time as Unitarians and the time is now.