Workshop: ‘Difficult to be a UU and a person of color’
“It is difficult to be a UU and a person of color,” said Gregory Boyd, panelist at the “Views from the Pews” workshop on race and Unitarian Universalism.
This sentiment was echoed by the rest of the panelists and by many of the attendees who offered comments during the Friday workshop at the 2011 General Assembly. Boyd, director of Children’s Ministry at the River Road UU Congregation in Bethesda, Md., also talked about what he loved about our faith. “I knew this church wanted me, loved me, celebrated me.”
Karin Lin, panelist and member of the First Parish in Cambridge, Mass., said that what she loved about Unitarian Universalism is that she doesn’t “have to leave a part of myself at the door.”
The panelists offered their personal stories of encountering racism in their chosen faith and the hurt that resulted. Boyd spoke of being mistaken for the janitor and of being asked week after week if he was a new visitor to the Boston-area congregation he had attended for years.
Jacqui Williams, panelist and member of the First UU Society of Albany, N.Y., related the time she was asked to wait outside of a church where she was to lead a workshop while her identity was verified with the minister.
Lin told of the emotionally wrenching time when she approached a minister seeking pastoral care regarding some of the racist comments she had heard from other congregants and was met with hostility. “He said that I was the problem, that I was too angry.”
The panel offered hope and suggestions for Unitarian Univeralists in combating racism in their congregations. “I would much rather people ask dumb questions than for people to assume things,” Williams said.
To ministers specifically, Williams said, “Check your facts! We are not all pilgrims. We are not all immigrants. When you say stuff like that I want to get up and leave.”
The conversation continued as a long line of attendees waited their turn at the microphone.
Jul-Mar Majuju, a member of the UU Church of Greensboro, N.C., pointed to what drew her to the faith in the first place. “One of the reasons I’m a UU is that as an African American and as a woman, I am finally able to be free.”
The Rev. David Carter, minister of the First UU Church of Wichita, Kans., spoke about the need to “leave home” in the sense of leaving what is comfortable and familiar in order to begin to know what we don’t know. “Until we leave home, we don’t understand how incomplete we are,” said Carter.