Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression & the 8th Principle
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”
Anti-racism work is like peeling the metaphorical onion. You take off one layer, only to discover ever more subtle (and tearfully painful) layers of how white supremacy works. Blatant racial prejudice and acts of white superiority and supremacy are only the first layers. Start peeling that onion and you find layers of white supremacy you didn’t even know existed.
It’s one thing to pass a resolution. It’s another thing to figure out how to embody those words so that they become a reality in our personal and institutional lives. I have served two congregations that have adopted the 8th Principle: UU Church of Annapolis and All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington DC. Guided by the proactive insights of Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones in their essay “White Supremacy Culture,” the Board, the ministry team of both congregations examined white supremacy culture at all levels of church governance, from the Senior Interim Minister position to the governing policies and oral traditions of how the church operates.
It was at my most recent ministry at All Souls Church in Washington DC where the impetus and motivatiohn for proposing the 8th principle began. I’ve heard critiques of the 8th Principle, such as “why do we need this, when we already affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person?” Here’s why: my experience has taught me that unless we white people actively engage with anti-racism and anti-oppression, we will find it too easy to sweep under the “inherent worth and dignity rug.” I include myself in this critique. The 8th Principle holds me as a denominational and congregational leader – and you – as member of this Association – accountable to actively counter racism within self, our association and the world at large.
All Souls Church Unitarian is one of the few truly multi-racial congregations I have had the pleasure to serve. All Souls has not only had a history of multicultural membership and leadership, they have experienced first hand the pain and the promise of building a multiracial Beloved Community. It IS possible – it will never be perfect – and it requires the work, especially of white people – to fearlessly confront the realities of white supremacy in all levels of our institutions.
Practicing the 8th Principle is a core commitment for me, both personally and institutionally. The work is never finished and I still have much to learn. I undertake the daily task of confronting and challenging racism and other oppressions within myself and in the institutions I serve with joy, hope and love.
As I’ve said earlier in another part of this website, this is a core and essential value for me. I will serve you best if we are in alignment about this important work.
How Do I Practice my Commitment to Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression?
Anti-racism, anti-oppression work never ends. However, each new learning and engagement opportunity helps reveal another layer of the onion skin. I’ve co-led three iterations of Beloved Conversations, attended Jubilee World I & II (twice); taken the IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory) twice; regular attender of SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice); Co-led Building the World We Dream About (2x); Intercultural Coaching – 2 years with Rev. Dr. Hope Johnson; ARAOMC trainings at General Assembly since 2000; Allies for Racial Justice (member); regularly seeking opportunities to show up at the invitation of people of color and/or to use and share the pulpit to draw attention to and inspire action towards greater understanding of anti-racist and anti-oppression work.