October 27, 2020

Anti-Racist Universalism

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 5:39 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I was reading about a professor at Bryn-Mawr, Julien Suaudeau, who wrote a piece about the current tension between French ideals and the reality of racism and division. He asks,

“How can French universalism reinvent itself as an anti-racist and postcolonial co-production? Asking these questions is not to reject universalism, but rather to question the forms in which it manifests itself and how they relate to reality and material conditions. They push us to understand what these values mean for someone living in the countryside, or in the suburbs of a big city (banlieue), or for a French person whose background is that of an erased and obscured colonial history. In line with the thinking of Jean Jaur├Ęs, the universalism emerging from these questions would start from the real and move towards the ideal.”

The same question can be asked of Unitarian Universalism. How can our (small ‘u’ universalism) be reinvented as anti-racist and postcolonial? How will diverse people co-create something that has been dominated by white Americans? How can we question the forms in which we manifest our faith without blindly rejecting their inspiration in both Christian Universalism and humanistic universalism? How can we understand what our current forms of UU life mean to those people who’s background includes the erased and obscured history of American colonialism, slavery, jingoism and Jim Crow?

My experience tells me that it depends on relationship. Who do we know and work with and how does that shape the words we use, the stories we tell, the rituals we perform and above all the people who find a home in our congregations and stay to become leaders?