Tuesday, April 11, 2017

White Supremacy in Liberal Religion, particularly Unitarian Universalism

I posted this elsewhere; 


To break down white supremacy in the UU hiring context, it is an unspoken (but indefensible) assumption that because UUism is "predominantly white", UU religious leaders who are white will be more effective leaders, a better fit, more likely to be team players with the rest of the leadership and less likely to run into problems with our mostly white congregants and congregational leaders. 

It is also an assumption that investment in creating congregations of color is very risky and most likely to fail. 

It is also a white supremacist assumption that most people of color are not interested in a religion like ours, therefore UU religious professionals of color are doomed to failure -- unable to minister to people of color outside our congregations and less likely than their white colleagues to minister effectively to the white people in our congregations/communities. 

These assumptions lead inevitably to the unspoken conclusion that when it comes to hiring religious leaders for the UU movement, white is better!

This whole train of assumptions and conclusions are based on the idea that liberal religion and Unitarian Universalism are culturally appropriate to white people, but not so to people of color. It's white supremacy, friends.

7 comments:

Stechjo said...

Tom, I sure can't speak for UU-ism in general but haven't found that attitude here in San Francisco. But, I'll also admit that SF is a liberal bubble.

Tim Bartik said...

I think matters are simpler than this.

The problem, in my opinion, is that the UUA is politically inept.

If you are trying hard to diversify your religion to appeal to a broader audience, including people of color, you need to try very hard to hire a significant representation from these communities for leadership positions.

Of course, this goal does not trump all other considerations, such as personal qualifications, in the unusual situations where it is really clear that one candidate's personal qualifications clearly are much better than the other candidate's. But the reality is, it is very hard to objectively evaluate personal qualifications, and the usual criteria people use ("fit", how someone does in a personal interview, whether someone has supposedly the ideal background) are very poor predictors of job performance.

There is nothing wrong with "affirmative action" in cases where it is unclear who is the best job applicant, or at least unclear if one is being at all unrealistic about what we know or do not know about predicting job candidates' job performances. The UUA should wake up and realize that they should set some guidelines and goals for hiring people from more diverse backgrounds, in terms of desired percentages, as affirmative action goals. Diversity is good IN AND OF ITSELF, at least if one's goal is COMMUNICATING TO A DIVERSE AUDIENCE THAT ONE WANTS DIVERSE GROUPS TO BE ENGAGED IN ONE'S ORGANIZATION.

This argument is reinforced by the revelation that part of the issue is that some UUA people believed that ministers have superior administrative experience to religious educators, which strikes me as a very strained argument. It is hard to defend anything that the UUA has done as a merit process when there is no evidence that the criteria used by UUA administrators really had much to do with merit.

The UUA leadership should have been communicating informal affirmative action goals for hiring to its administrators. This failure is likely to lead to more formal affirmative action goals. There will be less flexibility, which is the natural consequence of the UUA failing to make good use of greater flexibility. The resulting penalty is well-deserved.

Kim Hampton said...

I need you to get out of my head, my friend.

Tom Schade said...

I'm having trouble getting out of my own.

Susan said...

I do not think majority whites can know the experience of people of color. I don't care believe it matters how liberal you believe a particular congregation, community, or city may be.

White people (and all people) have been raised in a White Supremacist country and mindset. It is not easily seen or shed. It is best to assume that is our way of being in the world and we have not "unlearned" it completely.

I believe this is an opportunity and time for celebration for UUs. Celebrate the window opening, the blinds being drawn, even though what we see through the window is ugly and dirty. Now we can see it!

ou812 said...

The Pew Research Center has done research which could shed light on why African-Americans are less likely to attend UU churches: http://www.pewforum.org/2009/01/30/a-religious-portrait-of-african-americans/

Martin said...

Thank you for this post. Once I read it, it was all so obvious, but I hadn't connected the dots previously. My white privilege in action.