Politics Magazine

When They See Us

Posted on the 10 July 2019 by Eastofmidnight

"So much of what we think we know about black history is actually white history. We've told the black story through a white lens, with whites as the main object of black experience and existence. The 'unconventional' story is the one blacks have lived themselves." -Peter Temin

General Assembly has been over for a couple of weeks now, and while there are many things I could write about, my mind is stuck in history and its connection to the present.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of two things that are loosely connected, even though they are seldom talked about together: the exodus from the UUA and the publication of James Cone's "Black Theology and Black Power." And it didn't even occur to me that we don't talk about them together until GA was over.

Dr. Cone said that the reason he wrote "Black Theology and Black Power" was he saw what was happening to Black people and the inability of traditional theology to speak to the conditions of those most marginalized.

The exodus from the UUA in 1969 happened for much the same reason; members of the Black Affairs Council (BAC) saw the same thing happening in the UUA.
[yes, I know money was part of the issue. but money is never the actual problem, money is a symptom of the problem]

Far too often UUs talk about the "controversy" as a money issue, when actually it was much deeper than that. I frequently wonder what would happen if UUs talked about that period in a different way; as a white backlash to African Americans saying they were not ancillary to the Unitarian Universalist project, but major players in it. Yet, since that period is still talked about in the former way, UUism is stuck.

So now I get to ask the question that's been on my mind since Ministry Days: do UUs know that liberation theology exists? Or did liberation theology pass UUism by? Because I think part of the reason UUism is stuck, theologically at least, is there doesn't seem to be an active engagement with liberation theology at all. And that lack of engagement means that UU justice work can look spotty and ineffective.

What happens to UUism if/when the story about itself ever changes? When the focus isn't on those who have been talked about ad nauseam?

What happens when they see us?

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