“Walt Whitman: ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’”
Last Sunday was Mother’s Day. I tried to explore some of the threads of the women’s movement from the 19th century to today. A theme I hoped would stand out would be about male supremacy in American and most world cultures.
This Sunday will be a very important one at Westside as we explore a cousin of male supremacy called white supremacy. This topic isn’t being presented as a “blame whites” conversation. Male supremacy and white supremacy are seen as the general supremacy that one dominant culture assumes it has over those it sees as minorities or marginalized people. The assumptions run deep in a tone of ‘it’s always been this way’ and why change?
Last week I also invited us to listen to a short but evocative video by Aisha Hauser who is the Director of Religious Education at Eastshore UU Church in Bellevue. Here’s the link again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EWHyVRLOf8
Another resource to explore on white supremacy is this one on ‘white fragility’ at this link: https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/white-fragility-why-its-so-hard-to-talk-to-white-people-about-racism-twlm/
What does this mean? Certain words and collections of words will make me feel very uncomfortable as a member of the dominant American culture. I would prefer to go about my business of living life and focus on other issues. However, when we can’t experience or feel the consequences of our thoughts, words and deeds that affect others, then we cannot truly put ourselves in their shoes. We can’t begin to heal those places of pain until we understand our own roles in what is called oppression.
Here’s an example from last week. I was sitting with the ad hoc working group to plan the Sunday service this weekend on the white supremacy teach-in. Six of us were around the table talking about the service and peace circle afterward. Three were self-identified as people of color. The other three including me were white.
I drove home after the meeting and suddenly had an ah-ha moment. How would I have felt if everyone at that table was black except me?
I thought about that and my honest answer was that I’d become invisible and quiet. I’d not want to bring attention upon myself. That response wouldn’t necessarily be out of fear or intimidation but rather to not draw attention to my own ignorance about how the culture of the other five people at the table expressed itself.
I know it goes deeper. I was always alert as a child to any change of mood or potential anger of those who brought me up. Keeping my head low and avoiding potential conflict was a high priority.
Imagine how that would feel to an entire race or marginalized culture in America. Keep your head down. Don’t become a target of interest.
I’d say that I learned an important lesson last week about white supremacy. I know it could also be called many other labels as well but let’s stick with that one. It’s not easy to talk about this but spiritual practices of insight, awareness and mindfulness aren’t supposed to be easy. They stretch us into new shapes and ways of living. It’s hard work.
This Sunday we will continue that work and I hope to see you at church. I’ll be in the audience with you hoping to learn and discern better ways of being in relationship.
Blessings for us all as we navigate these shoals of change.
Rev Alex Holt, Interim Minister