Taking a Stand on Black Lives Matter

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On April 10, 2016, UCS Members voted unanimously to take a public stand to affirm that Black Lives Matter after an extensive education and engagement process within the congregation and the surrounding community. UCS members and friends engaged with issues on race and privilege through our Beloved Conversations curriculum, interfaith and multiracial Dialogue Circles in the Summit community, and several book discussions on the issue, including Ta’Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, and Debby Irving’s Waking Up White. The effort was led by UCS members of our Racial Justice Task Force and Beloved Conversations facilitators. By taking a public stand, our congregation will continue to engage, educate and advocate on racial equality in our country.

Here is our statement:

We Affirm that Black Lives Matter

Inspired by our commitment to “Standing on the Side of Love”, we feel called to take a stand about the stain of racism in America.

A terrible series of violent deaths of young Black men at the hands of police officers has shocked us and highlighted inherent disparities in law enforcement’s treatment of White people and Black people (1, 2).  Somewhat less visibly, under our criminal justice system, Black Americans are arrested with greater frequency for even minor infractions, convicted more often and receive more extreme sentences for the same crimes compared to White Americans (3).  The high rate of incarceration for young Black men has had devastating impacts on loss of income, unemployment rates, homelessness and the continuing destruction of the fabric of their families and communities (3, 4).  We see systemic racism at work in both dramatic ways (as in the killings in Charleston and the bombing of Black churches) and more subtle ones (as in discrimination in housing and banking (5, 6, 7), leading to a profound loss of hope within the Black community .  

Therefore, as a congregation, we are called to bear witness and stand as allies with Black Americans in their struggles for justice, equality and security.  We affirm that BLACK LIVES MATTER.   

To understand the current state of race relations, we must educate ourselves and reflect honestly on the legacy of slavery,  Jim Crow policies and the “New Jim Crow.”   By adopting this statement, we commit to educating ourselves by reading books such as Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me,  Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy and Debby Irving’s Waking Up White  and by accessing online resources such as the Facebook Group “UUs Resisting the New Jim Crow and Mass Incarceration.”  Other options for self-education in 2016 include:  joining Beloved Conversations on Race at UCS and/or participating in Conversations on Race, sponsored by the Summit Interfaith Council.  (Please see our FAQ sheet.)

And, as the Congregation of The Unitarian Church in Summit, we will take actions to bear witness and stand as allies with Black Americans.  This may include:  publicizing and attending rallies and vigils; organizing events at the church to educate and raise awareness, and posting a “Black Lives Matter” banner.  We also pledge to challenge acts of racial injustice wherever we encounter them.

Submitted by: Margaret Bennett, Claudia Cohen, Jean Crichton, Bill Edwards, Cathy Menendez,  Mia Morse,  Kimi Nakata, Mel Polatchek & Lorraine Wearley.

References:

  1. MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT AND MATT APUZZO,
    South Carolina Officer Is Charged With Murder of Walter Scott, NYT, APRIL 7, 2015.
  2. AL BAKER, J. DAVID GOODMAN AND BENJAMIN MUELLER,  Beyond the Chokehold: The Path to Eric Garner’s Death, NYT, June 13, 2015
  3. MICHELLE ALEXANDER,  The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2012.
  4. JUSTIN WOLFERS, DAVID LEONHARDT AND KEVIN QUEALY,  1.5 Million Missing Black Men, NYT, April 20, 2015.
  5. JESSICA SILVER-GREENBERG AND MICHAEL CORKERY,   Evans Bank Settles New York “Redlining” Lawsuit,  NYT, September 10, 2015.  
  6. PAUL KIEL  AND ANNIE WALDMAN,  The Color of Debt:  How Collection Suits Squeeze Black Neighborhoods,   ProPublica, October 8, 2015
  7. TUCKER, J.B.,  The Ultimate White Privilege Statistics and Data Post,  www.jbtucker.com, February,  2015.