Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Campaign Zero

Maybe when the pushback/conflict around a "Black Lives Matter" banner gets stalemated in a UU church, or among your family, taking a good look at Campaign Zero might shake things loose.

The campaign offers policy solutions in 10 areas. It also evaluates 2016 candidates on their public positions in each area.

The planning team includes people at the heart of the Movement for Black Lives.

Policy proposals and campaigns are not the same as protesting in the street, nor is it like posting a banner on the front of a church. It is not the kind of detailed and relentless exposure of white privilege that is going on in the public square today. But it might be persuasive to those with a different learning style: those that can't quite get the bold statement that "Black Lives Matter" without some concrete steps around it.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Banners Show All Lives Matters' Racist Truth by Cynthia Landrum

The common response to “Black Lives Matter” has become “All Lives Matter.” And, absolutely, as Universalists, we believe in each and every person’s worth to God, that all are savable and all are saved. As Unitarian Universalists, we believe in each person’s inherent worth and dignity. Each person. All. Of course all lives matter. So this leads some people to believe that there's some confusion about what we mean when we say, "Black Lives Matters."  And liberals often try to address the "All Lives Matters" by doing just the sort of explaining I just did above.  Another example is a Facebook meme that says:

But are we having a misunderstanding? Tom Schade wrote recently on the power of banners.  And the Standing on the Side of Love Campaign also speaks to the power of these banners.  One power that Black Lives Matter banners are having is to make it clear there is no misunderstanding here at all.

 Here’s the thing. I don’t think that the people who are responding saying all lives matter are really confused about this at all.  When the River Road UU Congregation put a Black Lives Matter banner in front of their church, it was twice vandalized – the vandal cut the word “Black” out of the sign, and then it was stolen.
Banner at River Road UU Congregation from

 Lake Country UU Church in Wisconsin also had the word “Black” cut out.
Banner at Lake Country UU Church from
Cutting out the word "Black" isn’t saying that "all lives matter" – it’s a violently cutting out the "Black" from "Lives Matter." It’s saying that Black lives don’t matter. First Unitarian Society in Milwaukee also had their sign vandalized, with the word "Black" written over with “All” and then the banner stolen.  The UU Congregation of the South Jersey Shore also had "All" written on top of "Black on their sign.

Sign at UU Congregation of the South Jersey Shore, photo by Betsy courtesy of Rev. Cynthia Cain.

When you cross off "Black" with "All," you’re again not saying "All." You’re saying “Not black—all other.” It is saying "All" -- it's saying "All except what I just deleted: Black." If there was really just a desire to clarify, it would be as simple to put a little caret in that said “And ALL” after "Black," without the violent reaction to the word "Black."

But just in case it’s still not really clear, in Reno Nevada they made it really clear. The UU Fellowship of Northern Nevada’s Black Lives Matter banner had the world “Black” written over with the word “White.”

UU Fellowship of Northen Nevada from
The symbolic violence is not just limited to physical banners, either.

On the Facebook page of the UU Congregation of the South Jersey Shore where people were writing “All Lives Matter” and Unitarian Universalists have been responding with clarification and engagement, the response has gotten as extreme as one person threatening to shoot a Unitarian Universalist minister for saying that "Black Lives Matter."  There's simply no way that people can simultaneously be truly believing that all lives matter and at the same time be threatening to kill someone.

The banners have made it clear.  There’s no confusion here what we mean when we say, “Black Lives Matter.” This push-back of “All Lives Matter” isn’t about clarification of a misunderstanding. It’s about an angry response to anti-racism challenging the white cultural supremacy. It’s as simple as that.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The power of banners

Unitarian Universalist congregations are discovering the power of banners.

They have been putting up banners on the outside (some on the inside) of the buildings proclaiming that "Black Lives Matter".

They are breaking through the shell of ineffectuality that has surrounding progressive politics for a generation: that sense that no one notices, and no one cares, when progressives stand up for social justice. It is as though the world says, "what else is new?"

But hang a controversial banner on the outside of a church, and you get a reaction. People steal them. People deface them. People modify them. It takes bravery and courage to persist. Other people are encouraged and supported by the church's persistence in the face of opposition. The congregation is communicating.

The history for Unitarian Universalist congregations is long. For decades the Wayside Pulpits were our primary tool for evangelism. Short pithy quotes that challenged conventional religious thinking were right there where other churches put their dull and expected messages.

Then came the Rainbow flags that communicated our support for GLBTQ people.

And then the Standing on The Side of Love banners.

And now, Black Lives Matter.

For many of our congregations, our buildings are our most important means of communicating who we are and what we stand for. Some of our buildings are extraordinarily beautiful, and some are very prominent in their community.

Isn't it ironic that in these times of social media and the explosion in ways of communicating, Unitarian Universalists are finding the most impactful way they communicate is by hanging a banner on their building.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


Most Americans will never see Alaska. Most will never see Denali.
Most Americans couldn't report a single fact about William McKinley beyond that he was assassinated. If that.

Most Americans don't live in Ohio. I lived in Ohio and William McKinley was rarely on my mind. (I did live near the Warren G. Harding memorial in Niles, Ohio, and Harding too was rarely on my mind.)

McKinley was just about the last of a long string of Republican Presidents who held office as a result of the Party of Lincoln selling out the freed slaves in 1876 and ending Reconstruction. They were aggressively pro-business.

This is about whiteness. President Obama took something that was symbolically white and gave it back to Native America. And "someday President in his mind" Donald J. Trump promises to give it back.

This is about the Doctrine Of Discovery -- that ancient principle from the dawn of the European conquest of the Americas. The Pope said that the European Christians had full power over the non-Christians they encountered in the New World. Naming mountains was the least of it.

We are asked to somehow accept a gold prospector's naming of Denali after a US political candidate as a legitimate naming exercise. By what authority? By the authority of being the first white person to suggest naming the mountain that already had a name. The authority of whiteness.

The Unitarian Universalist Association has repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery. It is possible for people who are descended from Europeans, as most UU's are, to learn to look at the world without relying exclusively on the lens of whiteness.

Denali is a beautiful mountain, named "the Great One" in the language of the human beings who have known it longest. It never needed any other name.  Our faith calls upon us to resist the power that claims the right to give it another name.