BLUU Risk Statement to UU Congregations

from the Organizing Collective of Black Lives of UU

Prophetic Unitarian Universalist ministers speak truth to power both within and outside the walls of the congregations they serve. As Black Lives Matter continues to emerge as a force for social transformation and collective empowerment of Black people, more and more UU ministers will find themselves in the uncomfortable position of negotiating the gap between their call to be prophetic voices in the world and the expectation that they be neutral, stabilizing presences among the congregants the serve.

As Black Unitarian Universalists, we affirm those clergy who, at significant personal and professional risk, dare to rise in solidarity with Black people who are brutalized by police, as was the case recently in Wausau, WI.

We affirm the prophetic voices of Unitarian Universalist clergy, congregations & lay leaders speaking truth to power and showing up in solidarity with Black Lives Matter as well as with other justice movements. UU ministers who speak on behalf of themselves in cases of suspected police misconduct are well within their bounds. There is nothing regrettable about them exercising their right to free speech, nor about their joining with non-UU clergy to speak against state-sanctioned violence.

While we understand the desire of congregations to have an amicable relationship with law enforcement officials sworn to serve and protect its members, we challenge congregations to hear the experiences and perspectives of Black people who are often unduly surveilled, harassed, threatened, beaten, shot and even killed by those same officials.

Being a liberal congregation in a much more conservative community is inherently filled with risk — the risk of being ridiculed, of being alienated, of being in harm’s way. All of these risks are extremely familiar to everyday Black people in communities across the nation. We encourage liberal congregations to take risks — to trust and identify with the historically and perpetually marginalized Black people in their communities who are not protected from wanton violence by their skin color or ethnic identity.

We see the historical precedent in how some Unitarian Universalist congregations chastised their ministers for accepting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s invitation to join in the March from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. While UU congregations now uniformly affirm those ministers for their bold stance, we would be more honest to acknowledge that the actual context for their prophetic witness was often controversy in the churches they served. Some ministers endured outright hostility.

We hope that today’s Unitarian Universalist congregations — be they almost entirely white in their demographic makeup, or multiracial — might learn from the civil rights era. The time to be act and speak prophetically is now. Now is the time to show up for the historically marginalized and oppressed. Just stances are rarely easy to take in the moment. Doing what is hard can help usher in the day when all of us will live free from fear of law enforcement.

In faith,

The BLUU Organizing Collective