Moving forward in justice work requires humility.
I talked about this in our worship service last Sunday. Humility is not easy, and it takes a deep examination of our thoughts. As Unitarian Universalists, how often do you think we think we have all the right answers? How often do you think we move forward in our justice work with a feeling of self-righteousness? As “white saviors”? Just take some time to think about it and notice it when you enter into justice work.
There is an emerging shift in power in justice work- humbling ourselves (especially us white folx used to being in power and having all the right answers)- and empowering those who we seek to help. We must listen to the solutions that those with limited power have. We must recognize that our solution-making has come from our culture- a culture rooted in racial hierarchies and white supremacy. And, we must recognize the depths of culture- that culture goes way beyond food, clothes, language and those things that are visible. Remember the cultural iceberg? (you can Google “cultural iceberg” for many different models, but here’s one link: https://www.earthlymission.com/the-cultural-iceberg/)
American culture was created by white people. White people set the cultural standards. And the people who set the cultural standards, set the cultural hierarchy. That doesn’t mean white culture is bad, it means that American culture does not make room for other cultures because we think our culture- our ways of doing things, our living standards- are better. And we expect people to assimilate. This is opposed to seeing other cultures as just different- not better, not worse- and making room for them and for people of other cultures to be a part of the solution-making, policy-making, and what should be, life-sustaining processes by which we all live. Imagine how we can grow and what we can create when we make room for different solutions!
In order to truly help the people we strive to help, we must undo the policies that cause the inequities that cut them off from resources and power (as opposed to blaming groups of people for their own problems). And we can’t do this unless we truly understand, by listening to them, how these policies have affected their lives, and by empowering them to be a part of the solution. That does not mean they do all the work. We, as advocates and allies, continue to do the work of giving and opening up life-sustaining resources, and recognizing and changing policies that cause inequities and hierarchies.
My seminary reading this week is from the book, How to Be and Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. I highly recommend that every one of you read it. It is full of personal experiences, well-researched history, and methodical and clear statements about racism and antiracism. It is multi-layered and intersectional, thought-provoking and practical.
Here’s an excerpt to ponder:
“Cultural Racist: One who is creating a cultural standard and imposing a cultural hierarchy among racial groups.
Cultural Antiracist: One who is rejecting cultural standards and equalizing cultural differences among racial groups.
To be antiracist is to see all cultures in all their differences as on the same level, as equals. When we see cultural difference, we are seeing cultural difference– nothing more, nothing less.”
Happy ponderings! I look forward to your deep thoughts and all the ways in which the Spirit of Life can change you- and therefore our world.