Wednesday, December 15, 2010


In our fifth session, we explored the meaning and impact of white privilege on the lives of people of color and on whites themselves.  As Nelson Mandela said, "I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed."

The following are comments from some of our 21 participants after the session:

I find it intriguing that often our motivation for working toward racial inclusion is not, or may not be pure.  Sometimes it includes factors of self satisfaction.  But, even when this is true, the goal is worth the effort if the results more than compensate the fuzzy motivation.

It is interesting that centuries have passed and very little progress has been made to erase the racial issues in us.

I feel confident our efforts do and will make a difference and will correct social change regarding any privilege. 

Our group was trying to think about how to make connections with the people of color in our area that could have Unitarian Universalist leanings.

The idea I found most interesting is that white privilege is subtly insidious and how hard it is to b e aware of white privilege issues. 

One powerful idea for me is that “race” is an unnecessary construct that is often, if not predominantly, malevolent in its impact on both the oppressed and the oppressor. 

White privilege penetrates areas where we are unconscious or unaware of its existence. 

I find it interesting that diverse ways are not inherently better or worse but a way to become more self-aware and less inhibited.

If we acknowledge white privilege then action is required.  Some may not wish to give up privilege.  What would the benefit be?

What can I do about white privilege when I am almost never in a situation where it seems to appear?

The concept of white privilege, although existent, is not useful.  It makes white people feel guilty about their racism and stymies action.  It also does not identify the “oppressive society” (capitalism) that profits from and perpetuates racism.  I don’t believe white people were born racist—it is against their natural humanity.

How can whites fight against white privilege without being condescending?  How can we act so that we are perceived as authentic?

How to learn to recognize my unconscious prejudice is the greatest concern

I can’t see the privileges I have unless I really look at them.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Workshop Four--Identities

Workshop 4 Summary 

In this workshop we shared stories about a day in the life of someone whose racial/ethnic identity is "other," than our own.  We reflected on the experience of composing them. We tried to view the world through the lens of a person with a different identity.  We were then asked to list our individual concerns about expanding a multiracial/multicultural congregation?

GROUP 1  This group is concerned about:
1.  bending too far in redefining our core beliefs to accommodate.
2.  not wanting new people to feel that I'm prying when I ask them about
3.  wondering what our motivation is for inviting other ethnic groups.  Will they feel singled out?
4.  finding balance in the music program so that it will include diversity without losing the current classical genre.
5.  If we aren't inviting people in our own circle to come, why are we reaching
beyond our circle to different ethnic groups?
6.  Are we really open to people of different backgrounds, or are we making them feel uncomfortable if they come from more theologically restrictive backgrounds?

GROUP 2  This group is concerned that:
1.  the "image" we may have of being intellectual, somewhat unemotional, and not spiritual.  Maybe we have little tolerance for people with a conservative bent. 
This "image" issue may be a North American UU issue, as Unitarian Universalists from other cultures around the world look quite different from us; there are other ways to "do" Unitarian Universalism.
2.  our structure, or the way we "do" church is what keeps us small.
3.  we are not reaching out to our neighborhood.
4.  the rest of the congregation may be challenged by what we are learning, how do we include the congregation in this journey?
5.  I hope we can be more self-aware, knowing what we believe and aware of our isteners and meet them where they are.

GROUP 3  This group expressed concern that:
1.  we might go overboard in welcoming visitors to the exclusion of attention to longer-time members and friends.
2.  some visitors may not come back because they do not see others who look
like them.
3.  we will forget that people come when they are ready.
4.  we will fail to distinguish between historical "fear of the other" and our own personal fear of the other.
5.  we will lose focus on our approach to religion.
6.  we will fail to acknowledge our religious plurality.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Session Three

Workshop three built on reflective storytelling, focusing on our inclusion and exclusion experiences.  We continued by exploring our personal identity, those parts of who we are that make us human.  
Feedback from participants:

"My Unitarian Universalist faith is my foundation for my work, my volunteering, and my approach to life.  It informs how I related to others.  I assume people of other faiths relate to others from their religious and philosophical foundation as well.  How do we hear each other and appreciate each other when we come from very different belief symptoms?  How do we find commonalities that help us appreciate one another?"

"I enjoyed sharing with others the exploration of identity and what in particular it means personally to be human.  Many ideas emerged and were compared for me.  In some respects, this workshop material suggests why we have ended up in this Unitarian Universalist congregation." 

"One of our small group members suggested that being human is the struggle to get back to our spiritual connections.  I am continuing to struggle with the idea of being human--all of the mean and violent acts perpetrated against others cannot surely be a reflection of a 'human' being."

"I found it interesting to narrow down to the core those things that are essential to being human--showing that skin color, ethnicity, gender, class--none of them even came close to the core of what it means to be human."

"The picture card exercise was effective in demonstrating that despite nearly equivalent objective descriptions of an event, interpretations of the event can be divergent.  No new ideas resulted from this session, however, preexisting ideas were stimulated which were reinforced by this very well-crafted format."

" I had no clue how differently the world is seen and felt by one who is of a differing racial background.  The challenge is to be aware of my own relationships and my own identity.  Are identity and characteristics synonymous?  I dont' know.  Curiously for myself, I did not list child of God, human being, body/soul/spirit/mind as part of my identity.  Maybe if I look at that, marginalization ceases to have power."

"I found it challenging to differentiate 'what makes us human' from characteristics and habits.  I feel there is a lot of overlap here."

"The most challenging and interesting part of our day was defining what it is to be human."

"It is most challenging to discern between personal identity and learned habits.  I think I have a lot of work to do in this area."

"This session really dealt with one question: 'Who am I and how did I get this way and who will I become?  This is a very challenging and possibly risky activity."

"Today was interesting, challenging and puzzling.  Distinguishing between traits that make me human or things I do that are just habit was the challenge.  I found it interesting that some found nature to be centering while others felt that action was centering."

"As I contemplated what it is that makes me human, I came to the idea that it is the spiritual component of my life that makes me human."

"The most interesting aspect of today was how I perceive my relationship with myself and others."

"I found it interesting to contemplate what it would be like to lose aspects of what makes me human such as the loss of cognitive ability--the long slide into Alzheimer's disease--the loss of self and the loss of myself to others.  I also found it interesting how differently each of us can see the same thing."

"The postcard exercise was revealing and interesting but the large group written instructions seemed to steer us away from looking at identity.  The final quotes were interesting, but too bad we didn't have time to discuss them.  Great session in general."

"What makes up my identity?  It was enlightening to come up with, after careful thought, what the parts of me are--I thought about what people have said about me and things I think about myself.  Some things are really important to me being me.  I have only recently been marginalized in a significant way, it was life threatening.  I cannot imagine a marginalizing experience lasting the majority of a life-time.  Recovering is hard."

"It was interesting to realize that neither my gender nor my race were near the top of the list of what makes me human.  I like the powerful idea that the core values I prize are sometimes affected by, but are not determined by, my race/gender and other identifying aspects."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Workshops 1 and 2

Saturday, October 2, 2010

UUFCC took its maiden voyage into the Building the World We Dream About curriculum! We had 22 participants, which is great for our small congregation of just under 100. We opted to start with a double session, doing Workshop 1 in the morning with a lunch break of an hour followed by Workshop 2.  It was a long day but everybody hung in there and kept their energy and enthusiasm up.

Workshop 1 facilitated by Ginger and Sue.  After greeting and making sure everyone had a nametag and journal, Ginger opened with the poem “Telling” by Laura Hershey, included in the curriculum resources.  Each person introduced him/herself by telling one thing  most people would not already know about them.  We made a list of important reasons for our congregation to talk about antiracism/multiculturalism. 

We then distributed guidelines for making a covenant.  After some clarification of terms and meanings, everyone agreed to adopt all of the items on the list with the reminder that this will be a “living” document that can grow and change as we work together.  Our first journaling exercise, Insider/Outsider, followed.  Each person wrote about an experience in which they felt like an outsider, holding the story in their heart as a point of reference for later discussions.

Theater of Voices was the next activity.  Eight UU voices were selected from the curriculum of UU people of color and whites who had the experiences in their congregations, with some being affirming and others marginalizing.   Small group discussions of these experiences were insightful.  Participants were asked to write in their journals during the lunch break about situations in which they felt they really mattered and when they felt marginalized.

Workshop 2 facilitated by Pam and Di.  They opened by giving us an opportunity to practice Serial Testimony protocol. Each person shared something and then the next person’s testimony begins without comment from others.  We divided into five groups used the serial testimony to share a time when we really mattered and a time when we felt marginalized.  Each group compared their own experiences with those expressed in the Theater of Voices.  This was followed by a large group discussion of what it means to welcome someone into the congregation and how People of Color and other marginalized groups might be discomforted by the welcoming process. 

The Taking It Home exercise asked everyone to speak to two people in the congregation or community to learn about why they joined their faith community and reflect on how their stories align with the notion of marginality and mattering.

The feedback from all participants was overwhelmingly positive with some saying that the workshops surpassed their expectations.  We look forward to continuing with the workshops.  

The next workshop is on Saturday, October 16.