In our YRUU programs they have a way of calling out hurtful words or things that are said where the impact might not match the intent. “OUCH” reminds the speaker to check their language to be sure that it is inclusive. I was reminded of this on Sunday morning as I tried to fumble my way through a difficult Time for All Ages with the children. If you were there, you wouldn’t know that I spent more time preparing that TFAA than most. I went back and forth during the week about the best way to approach the subject of racism with children of such a broad age range, and what I ended up with was a bit of a jumbled mess, and hoped I didn’t have any “OUCH” moments, even though there were definitely some “OOPS”.
Recently I heard someone say that our youth are living in a post-racial world. I don’t agree. While huge strides have been made to educate children about racial equality, racism still exists in this country and at some point in their youth or young adult future they will come face to face with it, particularly if they are a child of color. Understanding racist actions and their impact isn’t a 5 minute speech or story relatable in a Children’s Moment during worship. It requires personal study, reflection and then practice in talking about it, both within our predominantly white congregation and with people of color. As a privileged white person, I need more practice and I suspect that most of us do. How can we teach our children to comfortably navigate a multicultural world if we aren’t comfortable ourselves?
Maybe you were raised with the old model of seeing us as all the same, being “colorblind”. The truth is, we aren’t all the same, and operating from that old model diminishes the beauty of our differences. We come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, different parts of the country, have different family experiences, learn different ways of communicating. All these and more shape the person we are and influence how we navigate the world, particularly in times of stress. This applies to all of us, but because being white holds more power in this country, the responsibility for listening deeply to the marginalized populations falls to us. We must be open to the conversation and prepared to engage in a meaningful way.
If we can remember and aspire to live our first Unitarian Universalist principle – affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of all people – we have the opportunity to engage in healing conversations and stand alongside people of color in their struggle for justice. We let them take the lead and support their efforts. We don’t do this because it makes us feel better, we do this because we believe that justice for all leads to peace for all.
So if there are “OUCH” moments in our conversations, let’s kindly note them for each other. Not to shame or blame, but in the interest of moving forward in our journey together. If you want to better understand one model of intercultural sensitivity and the developmental path that we are all on, please join Rev. Lois on Saturday, January 10, from 9-5. It is an amazing opportunity to begin to understand where you are personally and how to shift your thinking about living faithfully in a multicultural world.