Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, has a list of 13 books that he hopes readers of his book will also read. Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, where he writes about cultural, social and political issues, particularly regarding African Americans. He is also the writer of the current Black Panther series for Marvel Comics launched in 2016.
Want to learn more about racism and its effects on all of us? The Unity Library has many resources – books, videos, and online content – that are appropriate for children and adults.
Published in 2016, "Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man's Education," by Mychal Denzel Smith explores the question, “How do you learn to be a black man in America?” while coming of age during the presidency of Barack Obama and witnessing the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and too many more.
CLICK HERE to access the Unity Library Catalog. Search “Anti-racism / Racism Collection.” If you only want resources for children, then do a search for “racism, children.” The catalog can also be accessed under "Additional Resources" in the column to the right (below on the mobile version) and from the Library page at http://www.unityunitarian.org/library-and-bookstall.html.
Some suggested resources from Pauline Eichten
I’ve always blamed banks and insurance companies for redlining neighborhoods, essentially creating slums and causing “white flight” to the suburbs. Instead, I learned that it was deliberate actions on the part of government at all levels that created, promoted and enforced segregated neighborhoods and white-only urban and suburban communities. It was these actions, as well as those of banks, insurance companies, realtors, etc., that created the conditions that left African-Americans little choice in where to live and almost no opportunity to create assets through homeownership.
Read Richard Rothstein’s book, The Color of Law, to learn the details. Then check out the “Mapping Prejudice Project,” an effort to identify the racial restrictions embedded in Minneapolis property deeds. (Might the deed to your home contain racially restrictive language?)
I’ve also included a link to a recent talk by a Harvard University sociology and public health professor, “The Fierce Urgency of Now,” discussing how the physical and mental health of all Americans is threatened by institutional racism. And last, but not least, check out “The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a devastating recounting of the ways in which African-Americans have been deliberately denied access to all the ways in which White Americans have prospered.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein, Liveright Publishing Corporation, May 2, 2017
Rothstein is a leading authority on housing policy. In this extensively researched book, he makes abundantly clear that it was laws and policy decisions passed by local, state and federal governments that promoted the discriminatory housing patterns that continue to this day. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited future discrimination, but did nothing to reverse residential patterns that had become deeply embedded.
See also Pedro Nicolaci da Costa's article: "Public housing plays a huge role in racial segregation and inequality — but not in the way most people think"
The “Mapping Prejudice Project” is working to identify and map racial restrictions buried in historic Minneapolis property deeds. Their goal is to find every single racially restrictive covenant — a now-illegal type of deed restriction that prevented the sale of a home to a black person or, in some cases, anyone other than a white person — and plot them on a map of Minneapolis. The early results show, not too surprisingly, that the neighborhoods where racial covenants were clustered in the early part of the 20th century are still some of the city’s whitest. Mapping Prejudice is looking for volunteers to review property deeds online to determine if there are racial restrictions.
“The Fierce Urgency of Now: How Can We Better Understand and Effectively Address Racial Inequities in Health.” A talk by Harvard University sociology and public health professor David Williams, October 6, 2017, at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School. Williams says discrimination, racism and segregation are creating what he calls "a truly rigged system," and that the physical and mental health of all Americans is threatened by individual and institutional racism. He cites numerous studies that speak to segregation and its harmful effects. His 35-minute talk is followed by a panel discussion moderated by University of Minnesota professor Larry Jacobs. Panelists included former Minnesota Health Commissioner and Allina executive Jan Malcolm and Sahra Noor, a nurse and CEO of People's Center Health Services..
See also his talk on YouTube: “The Social Factors of Health”
David R. Williams is the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology at Harvard University. Dr. Williams is an internationally recognized social scientist focused on social influences on health.
“The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, June 2014.
“Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”
“If you sought to advantage one group of Americans and disadvantage another, you could scarcely choose a more graceful method than housing discrimination. Housing determines access to transportation, green spaces, decent schools, decent food, decent jobs, and decent services. Housing affects your chances of being robbed and shot as well as your chances of being stopped and frisked. And housing discrimination is as quiet as it is deadly.… Housing discrimination is hard to detect, hard to prove, and hard to prosecute."
Saturday, September 9, was a beautiful summer day — which made it even more remarkable that 130 people chose to spend it indoors. Why? They were part of the Unity Church-sponsored workshop on the Intercultural Development Inventory, or IDI. The IDI is a tool used to assess an individual’s or group’s progression along a continuum of cross-cultural competence. It evaluates one’s ability to understand and effectively work across virtually any type of cultural difference – whether that difference is rooted in race, sexual orientation or gender identity, class, national origin or other forms of identity and culture. For a congregation like Unity seeking to grow its justice work, both literally and spiritually, the IDI represents a way to understand our strengths and our deficits.
Phyllis Braxton of PINK Consulting gave a lively presentation discussing the features and characteristics of the stages of intercultural competence. She used humor and a surprisingly challenging exercise in counting the number of Fs in a displayed text to illustrate her points. Most of the 130 people gathered in the Parish Hall had completed an IDI questionnaire in the days leading up to our gathering. This enabled us to discuss where the group fell along a developmental continuum, and where we aspire to grow.
Intercultural Development Continuum
The IDI continuum defines five key developmental stages in intercultural competence:
At each of these stages, the IDI offers practical guidance on how organizations and individuals can improve their intercultural competence, and grow along the continuum.
Further, the IDI measures not just where one falls on the continuum, but assesses where we think we are – and the two are rarely one and the same. For both organizations and individuals, there is typically an aspiration gap. More often than not, we perceive ourselves to be more cultural competent than we actually are. This gap tells us where our work must be done, for as Parker Palmer reminds us, “we find the holy in the aspiration gap – between who we are and who we want to be.”
After the morning’s work, attendees broke out into smaller groups based on their roles in church life – religious education, worship associates, community outreach, pastoral care, ushers and greeters, library/bookstall, the Board of Trustees, and so forth. In these groups, we tackled hard questions about what our IDI results mean for our programs and practices. We love so many things about our church – and change is hard. But we are called to shift in ways that mean a deliberate reimagining of who we could be, and how to expand what we even mean by we.
Following are some comments from the participants in one breakout group as they tackled the question of how to apply these learnings to their area of ministry.
And this was just a beginning! More opportunities related to this work will be forthcoming.
By Erika Saunders, Unity Church member
It was born in Cleveland.
It was born in frustration.
It was born in love.
It was born in a cross-pollination between the Movement for Black Lives and Unitarian Universalism.
Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism was birthed in all these places and more.
What is Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism (BLUU), you ask? In short, BLUU provides “information, resources and support for Black Unitarian Universalists and works to expand the role and visibility of Black UUs within our faith.” Through a variety of initiatives, BLUU connects faith with direct liberation work and a more inclusionary vision of Unitarian Universalism. As BLUU organizer Leslie Mac told the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), “I have a dream that Black people will know they can go to any UU church and be welcome,” she said. “I can’t say that now.” Along with Leslie Mac, BLUU’s organizing collective includes Takiyah Nur Amin, Lena K. Gardner, Kenny Wiley, CDR Royce W. James and Elandria Williams.
The seeds of BLUU germinated at the Movement for Black Lives Convening in Cleveland in July 2015, where Black UUs talked about their faith, whether Unitarian Universalism had a place within the Movement for Black Lives and conversely, whether black lives had a place with Unitarian Universalism. Some of those present felt alienated from Unitarian Universalism, and concerned that their faith communities weren’t equal to the task of providing support for the transformative, challenging work of racial justice. Following these conversations, members of what would become the BLUU organizing collective reached out to one another to form both a recommitment to Unitarian Universalism and a dedication to creating a growing edge of their faith – including a new set of principles that would embody and expand Unitarian Universalism’s spiritual and practical ways of being in the world.
The seven principles of BLUU are:
Principle #1: All Black Lives Matter.
Queer Black lives, trans Black lives, formerly incarcerated Black lives, differently-abled Black lives, Black women’s lives, immigrant black lives, Black elderly and children’s lives. ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER and are creators of this space.
Principle #2: Love / Self-love is practiced in every element of all we do.
Love and self-love must be drivers of all our work and indicators of our success. Without this principle and without healing, we will harm each other and undermine our movement.
Principle #3: Spiritual growth is directly tied to our ability to embrace our whole selves.
A principled struggle must exist in a positive environment. We must be honest with one another by embracing direct, loving communication and acknowledgment of all that we are and all that we hope to be. The spiritual growth of UUs of color is directly tied to our ability to stand in the truth that black lives matter, both in the wider world, and just as importantly, in our UU congregations.
Principle #4: Experimentation and innovation must be built into our work.
Embrace the best tools, practices, and tactics, and leave behind those that no longer serve us. Evaluation and assessment must be built into our work. Critical reflection must be part of all our work.
Principle #5: Most directly affected people are experts at their own lives.
Those most directly affected by racial injustice and oppression should be in leadership, at the center of our movement, and telling their stories directly.
Principle #6: Thriving instead of surviving.
Our vision is based on the world we want, and not the world we are currently in. We seek to transform, not simply to react.
Principle #7: 360-degree vision.
We honor the past struggles and wisdom from our elders. The work we do today builds the foundations of movements of tomorrow. We consider our mark on future generations. Acknowledging the ways in which a Supremacist society diminishes us ALL is a critical part of the work of the Movement for Black Lives.
One example of BLUU’s work is its involvement in the #ReviveLove tour this past autumn. The tour brought an energizing combination of music and activism to Knoxville, Nashville, New Orleans, Saint Louis and Atlanta, and was organized by BLUU along with Standing on the Side of Love and Reverend Sekou and the Holy Ghost, a gospel and neo-blues band. The #ReviveLove tour “provided a spiritual offering to the movement” and space for Black leaders and supporters to reflect and replenish, says organizer Lena K. Gardner. “It lived out the deepest values of our faith, by providing musical sustenance, as well as training and support, for organizers in local communities.”
In October, BLUU presented to the UUA Board of Trustees about its work and goals, and the UUA committed $300,000 in immediate support to BLUU, with the promise of an additional $5 million over the long term. According to Lena K. Gardner, "The lead organizers are bringing people together in March at the first ever BLUU convening in New Orleans so that Black UUs from across the country can come and be a part of building the collective. We want many voices to have a role and input in building BLUU and utilizing the financial resources that the UUA has committed."
What is Unity’s role? Unity has been, and can continue to be, a fortifier, a supporter, and a safe and sustaining place for BLUU and its work, as well as other racial justice efforts. In May 2016 Unity became BLUU’s fiscal agent and served as such until the UUA provided initial funding and became the fiscal agent in February 2017. According to organizer Lena K. Gardner, “Unity has led by saying yes, by looking for ways to say yes. Unity has been able to be flexible, to find routes around logistical challenges, and more UU churches need to step up this way.”
Perhaps, for Unity, attention to BLUU’s Principle #5 is most critical: the people most directly affected by oppression are the experts on their own lives, therefore must be leaders in directing the movement’s work. For those of us who reside most often in positions of privilege, this means finding ways to be effective followers and learners, even when that feels uncomfortable or alien. Christena Cleveland, professor at Duke Divinity School, wrote recently in an essay called “How to be last: A practical theology for privileged people,” “Justice and equity work should be led by the marginalized — by those who have firsthand knowledge of the unjust systems that are in need of dismantling. If the marginalized lead, then the role that privileged people play is a supportive one. However, when privileged people are invited to play a supportive role in justice and equity work, they often feel disoriented, marginalized and role-less. Since they’re not ‘leading’, they don’t know what to do. Since they don’t have a ‘leadership’ role, they don’t believe they have a valuable role to play . . . Because leadership and high social status often go hand-in-hand, we are socialized to see leadership roles as inherently more valuable than non-leadership roles. The effect is that — in addition to not knowing how to play supportive, non-leadership roles — privileged people have a difficult time recognizing the social value and theological importance of such roles.” When those of us who have privilege exercise humility and let go of that disorientation, we free ourselves to grow into new understanding of the spiritual and practical value of the supporting role.
No matter what our respective roles or how we place ourselves within our communities’ struggles, perhaps we may all embrace and echo Lena K. Gardner’s assessment of her work: “it’s a continual coming back to love, learning more deeply about what it is to love each other in this world.”
In 2016, the Beloved Community staff team was formed at Unity Church to strengthen and coordinate Unity’s anti-racism and multi-cultural work, and to share the stories of this journey with the wider community. We commit to sharing the struggles, the questions, and the collaborations here at Unity and in the wider world of our faith and city. The current members of the team include Rev. Rob Eller-Isaacs, Rev. KP Hong, Drew Danielson, Rev. Lisa Friedman, Pauline Eichten, and Erika Sanders. This article on BLUU will be the first in an ongoing series of reporting out current events and developments in our aspirations to realize the Beloved Community more fully in our lives.
CLICK HERE to search for "Anti-Racism/Racism" resources in the Anderson Library, the Whitman Children’s Library, and the Historical Collection.
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