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Tomorrow, 5 years of seminary and many more years of discernment will come to fruition for me as I find out where I will begin my journey as a Unitarian Universalist minister.  For all of us who have been in search this winter, this has been a time fraught with anxiety and punctuated by incredible affirmation of our abilities as well as painful reminders that we cannot be everything to everyone.  I am grateful to everyone who has been with me on this journey and particularly to the incredible congregations who were generous enough to explore the potential for building ministry together.  I am overwhelmed with their love.

And in the midst of this, Unitarian Universalism is in pain (Critics decry ‘white supremacy’/UU World – March 27, 2017).  Once again, we are being asked to look deeply at the self perpetuating patterns of white supremacy that continue to dog our efforts to be “multi-cultural”.  Even as I launch my nascent ministry, I cannot be silent on this issue; particularly as a black gay man.  We have stepped into a new time of consciousness in the United States and I believe the world, where we are being asked to show what we are truly made of.  I am proud to soon count myslef among dynamic and diverse Unitarian Universalist religious leaders and I believe in Unitarian Universalism, but not with an eye that only looks back.  Fixation with the past is the same crime of our government that speaks of “founding fathers” and “original framers” to fix the ongoing terrorism of black and brown bodies and the epidemic of violence against women and the catastrophic marginalization of human sexuality, differing abilities and mental perceptions.  I must see Unitarian Universalism looking forward.  We cannot be sentimentally bound to the tools and structures that have reinforced patriarchy and subtle (and not so subtle) racism.  We must listen, we must learn, we must be humble, we must do better. We can be more.

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“Inherent worth and dignity” is not enough,
when “worth” is code for “white”
and dignity is spelled “m-a-l-e.”
This slippery intention
to name us all the same,
too often strides
into assumptions about perspective,
privilege, agency and pride.

“Inherent worth and dignity”
refuses religiosity, and will not bow in unison
or hold a single vision of the divine.
Yet while it mutters a refrain that tries to contain
the vast complexities of every human being
it seems to sound just like the same Western God.

Because “Inherent worth and dignity”
is the language of the colony
that doesn’t know the pain of slavery in its genes,
that ignores its culpability for Holocaust,
that continues to bastardize native people in ritual and song,
that strains against translation,
and always leaves women one step behind.

“Inherent worth and dignity”
Is carved from the dissonant language of white supremacy.
It resonates with paternal principles grown from privilege,
and rises as an onanistic declaration,
excited most by promises of self-righteous satisfaction.

Inherent for you
But abhorrent to her;
Worthy to me
But valueless to them;
Dignity to him
That erases xyr …

“Inherent worth and dignity” is not enough
In a language where the word nigger still sours every tongue.

We must have more.
We must have freedom
Unchained.
We must be seen
Unfiltered.
We must be heard
Un-silenced in a full-throated and triumphant cry.
We must have more than the language of the oppressor
for this dream of freedom to grow living wings
and finally take to the sky.

75 Years

b2fccd81-8508-45a1-b523-9482647e4895-983-00000647e60f3850_tmpAs a Black person,  I have my own cultural nightmares, yet every time I think of the era that descended on this country after December 7, 1941, I am physically ill.  A president like no other before or since, responded to attack with a rhetoric and acts based on unsubstantiated racialized fear, suppression and hatred aimed at innocent citizens.

75 years later, on the day that set those events in motion a man who has claimed the presidency based on racialized fear, suppression and hatred aimed at innocent citizens was named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

Apparently, America does not want to change.

Today I honor the men and women who lost their lives as civilians and as service members, and all of those who served during WWII before and after the United States entered that global conflict.  But most of all, I honor the Japanese Americans who suffered in this country…their country, under the tyranny of targeted oppression.  That period and our recent election both lay bare the perverse failing that still plagues this nation. Racism.

It’s Not About Race…

“It’s not about race” they say.
…my stomach turns
The sight of those self satisfied faces
Spinning politics on parade
…my heart burns
Not because they are white
But because they use the power of white
To turn me inside out always telling me,
“Its not about race”.
Yet race is always their final solution
To every problem or conflict.
It’s not about race…
It was a war between the states
It’s not about race…
It was about properly cultivating the land
It’s not about race…
It was about national security
It’s not about race…
It was about jobs and feeding families.
No, it’s never about race,
And its always about race.
So I rock in silence, too spent to weep
Too chilled to push back
Holding myself
Convulsing
From the poison I’ve been force fed
Over and over again
“It’s not about race”
It’s not about race
It’s not about race.

– ALD

#unraced, #eraced

A Poem in (the) Twitter Verse*

Racism is not just about white people and non-white people hating. It is about who has “race”.

In the United States, there are “un-raced” bodies and “e-raced” bodies.

E-raced means there’s a social algorithm that makes your color, culture, religion and customs an opaque burden.

Un-raced means your color, culture, religion and customs are invisible and weightless.

If you are un-raced, sometimes you turn around to see racism in the distance, and you hate it.

If you are e-raced, you are the physical location of racism. You see it in the mirror, and you hate it.

If you are un-raced, you hear about shootings and poverty and say “what a shame.”

If you are e-raced, you wonder if you are next, or if someone in your family just died.

Most white people in the United States are un-raced.

Most everyone who is not white in the US is e-raced.

The Bundy family and their accomplices are free because they are un-raced.

The Alt-Right wants to protect the exclusive white privilege of being un-raced.

White liberals who write songs to speak for brown mouths are un-raced.

The Movement for Black Lives is a demand for an end to being e-raced.

Black youths being killed by police or each other are being e-raced.

Black conservatives being thrown out of Republican rallies as thugs are also being e-raced.

Muslim women having their scarves ripped off their heads are being e-raced.

Latino/a/xs being told to speak English are being e-rased.

The tribes protesting at Standing Rock are being e-raced…again.

I have never experienced the United States in an un-raced body.

Every day I wake up to news that reminds me how often and how easily my body is e-raced.

America, seen from inside an e-raced body is a nightmare.

No government or President alone can solve the tragedy of the un-raced vs. the e-raced.

Regardless of how you are “raced”, don’t vote for an ideology…vote to be seen.

The goal is not to be un-raced or e-raced.

The Goal is learning to share what it means to be human-raced.

-ALD

 

*This “poem” originally appeared line-by-line on Twitter

Hey Dylann,

imageHey Dylann,

Its been a while. Its been a while since we last saw you out in full view. 1968 to be exact. You’ve been kind of hiding in corners and shadows since then…yeah, its been a while.

I wanted to let you know that since you were last here, there’ve been some changes. You see, the last time you stood in full view you really pissed us off and, well, things might play out a little differently than you may be expecting. There are a lot of people who look just like you who are downright sick over being associated with you. They look like the people you go to church with, the people in your family…the people you trust. But they aren’t you. They’ve woken up to the fact that there is no basis for hating because of the color of someone’s skin and at every turn they are determined to change what happens next. Sure, they struggle with hearing about everything you did in the past, genocide, slavery, rape…because like you, that is the history they are associated with. Unlike you, that history causes them agony; unlike you the only way forward they see is to write a new narrative. They are willing to look at all the ugly you represent and say loud and clear, “I am not that! I will not be that!” More importantly, they are willing to act on what they believe and frankly, they want to see you dead.

Another thing that has changed? All those folks who don’t look like you have now put themselves in positions of power so that when you’re looking up at a jury or a judge, there’s a good chance you will be looking in the eyes of someone who looks like the 9 innocent people you killed this week…or the people you set dogs and hoses on in 1965 or the men you lynched and castrated before that or the immigrants you abused to death at the turn of the century or the Native People you burned and raped when you arrived on their land. In fact, the highest attorney in our country is now someone who, 165 years ago, you might have taken to the woods and used. What a shame that you didn’t realize that every time she gave birth to one of your bastard children and every time you excluded those children from your family/club because of a silly “one drop” mentality, they went off and became part of an army of people who now hold your very existence in their hands.

Yes, Dylann, its been a long time since we’ve seen you in plain view. We knew you were there, just as you had been there for all those years before. But you know what, this time, we’re ready for you…we’re all ready for you and that, my friend, means there’s no escape.

– The People

Update: the following is a link to a Huff Post article that claims to have a “manifesto” from Dylann Roof : READ HERE

End LGBT Racism

In honor of Black History Month, I’ve created this little video as a call to action in the LGBT community. We have enough challenges without labeling each other and speaking to each other in “types.” To call the LGBT movement the “New Civil Rights Movement” without addressing the rampant racism within the community is a travesty. And this isn’t just a black white issue: it influences relationships for every person of color in the LGBT community.  If we want both self respect and the respect of society at large, let’s end this game of internal oppression and deal with our own deep failings.

End LGBT Racism NOW!

No Dinner Plans

michael-brown-grad-photo

The following is a statement that was made for the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Larger Fellowship upon the news of the “No Indictment” decision from the Grand Jury examining the case against Darren Wilson in the murder of Michael Brown.

The tragic irony of the grand jury decision from Ferguson, Missouri coming so close to the Thanksgiving holiday is inescapable. We should be preparing dinner, not a cultural war. In a metaphorical sense, we should be talking about how many more people we can put around the table, not how many more people will be turned away. This ongoing struggle between black and white is a global disgrace and the combination of this decision and the deluge of news that we sift through also highlights how we are asked to “choose” where we put our attentions for justice. You see, the media and the ignorant would have us believe that Ferguson and Immigration are separate issues; that voting rights and health care, are about different things; that environmental justice and marriage equality effect different populations. But no, they all impact one very specific group of people: The Other.

You see, it is “The Other” that is feared. It is “The Other” that is vilified. It is “The Other” that is left behind, left out, marginalized and shot in the street.

Yes, we should be preparing dinner…

You see, if we were preparing dinner, we would be asking ourselves, “what will feed the people coming to table?” “What will make them feel welcome and nourished?” “What can we share that will fill their needs?”

Instead, too much of our time is focused on getting and keeping stuff or defending our rights to stuff or creating more stuff…

…when we should all be enjoying the stuffing and stuffing ourselves full with an abundance of love.

Right now, we are seeing the product of setting a table for some instead of a table for all. The food is there; the finest dishes are set, the crystal and flatware polished; the linen is crisp and clean. But with only a few at the table, most of the food will go to waste, the place settings will collect dust and tarnish and the meal will be incomplete. Only one opinion will be expressed in a flat conversation and everyone will leave deeply unsatisfied.

So let this be a lesson to us moving forward. Black people are not the enemy; white people are not the enemy; Immigrants are not the enemy; Latinos are not the enemy; Asian people are not the enemy; Transgender people are not the enemy; Bisexual people are not the enemy. The only enemy is when any of us is treated like “The Other,” and turned away from a table that should be set first with love. And let’s not forget that even then the real enemy is not “The Other” but “The Us.”

Let’s start preparing dinner…a meal where we are all welcome and fed.

Sending a prayer to the family of Michael Brown, the people of Ferguson and to everyone else who is feeling utterly helpless at this moment to a “system” that is not a system, but a sickness.

Not a Toy

The Real Tina Turner – Not a costume!

This morning I read an US Weekly piece about the music artist Ellie Goulding from “Burn” being attacked on Instagram for wearing an imitation Native American headdress for Halloween. The singer claims that she hadn’t worn the costume yet when the photos were posted. Of course this isn’t the first time Native American “inspired” outfits got someone into trouble; remember a couple of years ago when Karlie Kloss walked the catwalk for Victoria’s Secret in a full length headdress? (read about it here. Yeah, they were serving “rain dance refresher” cocktails at the “pow wow” themed afterparty.) Halloween seems to be the time when people of color suddenly go from being actual living breathing beings to someone’s first place in a costume contest.

News Flash: People of Color Are NOT Playthings

That’s right folks, gone are the days when one could dress up as an “Injun” or “Mariachi Band”or a “pickaninny.” You might think its “all just in fun” or that “everyone does it” but people of color en masse are saying enough, and frankly, we don’t do it, or if we do, its certainly to make a point. This is the danger of the commercialism of a holiday like Halloween. For years, it has taken advantage of the de-humanization of people of color so that along side the other animal costumes (gorilla, wolf, etc.) you had Aunt Jemima and Charlie Chan. Maybe these kind of outrageous stereotypes are gone, but the impulse of mocking appropriation that put them out there is not. There is still a lot of work to do in letting people know that the era where people of color are voiceless, nameless myths that are great fodder for a joke is OVER.

People of color are redefining what “harmless play” is and that’s a good thing. Some older generations squawk at a lost innocence. I would argue that it is more of a lost ignorance. Suddenly (for some) everyone actually matters. I remember years ago being told that I couldn’t play Elvis Presley in a review show. My argument was that if they were going to have a white woman playing Tina Turner in the same show, than surely I could also play Elvis. Alas I did not win that battle because of course Elvis Presley (who was dead by that point) actually matters and Tina Turner (who is still very much alive…thank you very much) does not.

What is happening is that the core sense of what it means to have an identity of any kind is changing. Not only in terms of intersectionality, but even in terms of the big ticket single identifiers (Black, Hispanic, Asian, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Pagan, Christian, Muslim, Jewish…etc.) But in this identity revolution it seems sometimes as if people who identify as white are being left behind. It is as if privilege has been a drug that has numbed the sense of self identity among many whites, particularly older generations. It is extremely easy for someone like me, African American, gay…to look at the actions of Ellie Goulding and say “oh HELL no!” And I would tend to believe that goes for pretty much most people of color. Our senses are open and raw to this kind of hurt.  But I know for a fact (having had the conversation about the fashion show) that any number of white people I know, wouldn’t see the harm…wouldn’t get it. This is the morphine drip of privilege at work. How can you feel a sensibility that is blocked? There are those (mostly millennials) who are coming off of the anesthetic. They immediately get what it means when you ape someone else’s culture. But Ellie Goulding is 27 years old. Granted, she’s British; she has no personal cultural context for a relationship with Native Americans. But in this age of global internet, it is difficult to make any excuse for an international public figure being this unaware.

I’ve been told by some people reacting to the people of color revolution that it seems like an awful lot of work. This is, I believe, the reason that we even use the term “people of color”; it is shorthand for the dominant culture…much more digestible. I’ve always thought, however, considering world demographics that this terminology should be the other way around and that we should be referring to the global minority as “people of non-color.” I guess, in certain minds, recognizing each and every person for who they are and how they identify and trying to be authentic with them just isn’t as sexy as being able to make the odd Chinese or Indian joke. My response is this: think about how much work it has been to live invisible, mocked at, objectified, fetishized, stereotyped and generally put down for 400+ years?

The rest of the world is a little tired and ready to move on.

Oh, and speaking of sexy…don’t get me started on the whole “Sexy(…)” costume trend and the horrific stuff that says about what we think of women. UGH! But that’s another blog.