Letter to the editor: Time to see the worth in us all
Unitarian Universalist congregants make an effort to follow seven Principals basic to our beliefs and practices. The first is, “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.” If we can follow this seemingly simple belief, we would remove from our lives prejudice, bias, racism, hate, homophobia, and other isims that may be preventing us from practicing the teachings of Jesus, to love one another, forgiveness, not being judgmental, among others.
This is not a column about religion, but rather about love and acceptance of one another, as we are, without criticism, working toward an inclusive society where all are welcome and valued for the, “content of their character,” as Martin L. King, Jr. so eloquently said many years ago.
However, this can be hard, especially regarding racism, because of our long history of enslavement of Africans stretching all the way back to when the pilgrims brought Africans for enslavement to the Plymouth Colony 400 years ago. Then through the Civil War; the striking down of reconstruction; Jim Crow laws that segregated Black folks to inferior conditions; thousands of Black men and women lynched; being restricted to living in ghettos in our cities; and up until the Voting Rights Act, many counties in Southern states no Black people were allowed to register to vote. Then after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision requiring schools to be integrated, the resistance all across the South to this resulting in the closing of schools in some counties for as long a five years where no Black children got an education. The list of atrocities is much too long to state here.
This systematic suppression of the rights and liberties, and the terrible treatment of Black people is called white supremacy. All white people, today, are tainted with this abuse and exploitation of African Americans. This applies whether or not we are directly implicated in any actions that have actually caused these abuses to happen. Sadly it is our legacy. We are now tasked with righting the wrongs of the past.
White supremacy permeates our culture. Its long history shapes our society, our culture, our government, our organizations, our religion. It’s something that is there, and that we are affected by even though we individually may not have caused it. It’s something we all need to work hard to eliminate.
One of the ways white supremacy raises its ugly head is racism. Described as prejudice, bias, discrimination, a feeling of superiority, a hatred of, expressed in explicit and implicit injustices to people of another color. Racism is any prejudice against someone because of the color of their skin.
We all want to be good people, to do the right thing. But sadly the overarching legacy of white supremacy sheds a pall on everything continuing to this day to hurt our brothers and sisters of color.
There is racism in Vermont, many reports, articles have made this clear. We all, together and individually have to fight to right this wrong, the wrongs of the past. Not all people are racist. We cannot make blanket statements that any white working person in America today, is actually racist. But, still, this is an issue we need to think and learn about and take action to overcome. This work is not easy, it takes effort and honesty by our personal selves to admit that we can do better. We need to read, attend workshops on antiracism, work in and with organizations, our religious institutions, governments and more.
MLK once said, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” So today let us acknowledge that many before us and many of us are currently working toward that important end of justice for all. And Let us know that not all people are racist. Let us enlist all people to our justice work.
But, with the cloud of white supremacy hanging over us it is unfortunately easy to act in a racist way without realizing what is happening. This is called implicit bias, which can be described as the beliefs that sit in the back of our brain and inform our actions without our explicit knowledge. Examples are, “He is really smart for a Black person,” or “Is that your real hair? Can I touch it?” or “Wow you speak English really well,” or “Do your kids all have the same dad,” or “You don’t sound Black.” This implicit bias, or as some call it microaggressions, which are so easy to say, do really hurt.
An insightful book, “So You Want to Talk About Race,” author, Ijeoma Oluo cautions, “You can’t just go around calling anything racist. Save that word for the big stuff. You know, for Nazis and cross burning and lynching. You’re going to turn people off if you use such inflammatory language.”
Sadly we live in a society still suffering from racism. This is evident from the highest reaches of our national government and may from time to time even reach down to us the average citizen.
The vitriolic rhetoric of the past two years now torrid with too many extreme ramblings, utterances and innuendos is not very subtle.
While a white supremacist, racist national leadership continues down a destructive, shameful path, the rest of us must “come round right,” as the Shaker hymn says, learn from the injustices of the past and stamp out the injustices of the present and our future. If we all work at it, we can do it.
Peace and Justice be with us all.
Paul A. Stone & Frances L. Stone
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