Affirm and Promote that Black Lives Matter
By Reverend Tom Capo
Preached on 3/29/2015
How do we put value on lives? There is a movement in our country called “Black Lives Matter.” Our Unitarian Universalist Association has a web page devoted to the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which continues to build as more and more awareness of systemic racism is raised. Trayvon Marin, Michael Brown, Jr., Eric Garner. How many more Black men have to be killed before America wakes up to the racial injustice inherent in our daily lives? What will it take for us to stand up as white allies and speak truth to power?
In the book Soul Work: anti-racism theologies in dialogue, Reverend Patricia Jimenez writes: “Unitarian Universalist minister Reverend Paul Rasor has suggested and others have affirmed [that] racism [and oppression are] problems of “othering” people, of holding some up as superior and putting others down as inferior. It is embedded in our way of doing things in this country and gets played out in many ways, including personal disdain and hatred, institutional discrimination, and cultural domination. All of these represent power-over—domination, which is a fundamental evil, a theological problem that we [Unitarian Universalists] are seeking to address.”
I have heard some people, some liberal voices say, “Instead of promoting ‘Black Lives Matter’ why don’t we affirm that ‘All Lives Matter’. Making the movement about ‘All Live Matter’ would raise everyone’s worth and value to the same level, rather than focusing just on people of color.” Well, before I answer that, let’s hear from Peter, a white man.
“Here and now, I don't feel affirmed living out issues of race. This is a dirty business willed to us by people who looked like me. However, what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, and I can do nothing without doing some harm. I am moving from being an etherized White man ignorant of race to being a European American man discomforted everywhere...My participation at a self-consciously diverse Unitarian Universalist church dismantling racism in fits and starts has offered consolation. Despite my being and my action, my brothers and sisters remain authentically engaged with me in things that I get right and things that I get wrong. Like an unreformed drunk (since my culture will not yet allow me to live one hour, much less one day at a time, privilege-free), I must lean on the good will of my fellow travelers in this religious community I have chosen to join. It’s their good will and its reflection of their perception of my good will that offers affirmation.”
The voices you will hear throughout this sermon are those of Unitarian Universalists struggling with racism and oppression—none of them are from our church. I will also share some of my experiences and insights. My hope is something you hear today will touch you, reach you, and perhaps motivate you to look at racism and oppression differently. Our faith calls us to intentional work to dismantle racism and oppression, in our churches and in our world. Our Unitarian Universalist Principles and our heritage as change agents in society call us to do this work. However, we need to remember as we do this work that we are human, and humans have blinders. Even Unitarian Universalist humans have blinders. We don’t always recognize when racism or oppression happens around us, even when it happens in our denomination or in our church. I know it has happened in our churches.