On the night that the Ferguson Decision was made, I held a candlelight vigil at our church. A few people showed up, each with deep concerns and emotions, wanting no-one to be hurt/killed after the decision was announced, believing that cultural change can only happen when there is large scale upheaval, angry over the injustice, and wanting healing for the cultural divide that exists within our country. Other Unitarian Universalists in Chicago held vigils in their churches and on the night after the Ferguson Decision, about one hundred Unitarian Universalists gathered at First Unitarian Church of Chicago for a candlelight vigil. Very similar feelings were expressed by the participants as had been expressed at our church.
After the vigils, the Chicago Area Liberal Ministers (CALM, the local chapter of Unitarian Universalist ministers) gathered and committed to working together to find a means to reduce racial inequality, prejudice, and racial profiling. CALM members started a process that will begin with developing a team to help create an assessment process of the cultural competency of each of our Chicago congregations, so that we can begin working where our congregations are to help them develop more cultural awareness, an awareness that can help them work with cultures other than their own to help make change happen in our country.
I am privileged to be part of a clergy cluster that has been willing to put aside discussion of topics to focus instead on action to make our world a better place for all. While education and sharing of resources is necessary, there is a call in our country right now for change. And this dynamic group of clergy is committed to long term change, not just situational reaction to a tragedy.
“When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no ‘white’ people there; nor, according to the colonial records, would there be for another sixty years.” (written by Theodore W. Allen). I also want to take time in this post to encourage my readers to consider how racial inequality and prejudice started. Read this article on “How White People Got Made” by Quinn Norton on the newspost Medium.com: https://medium.com/message/how-white-people-got-made-6eeb076ade42). I believe it is important for us to realize that racism was created over a long period of time, and that it can be changed. Racial inequality and prejudice exist and are perpetuated in this country by institutions, by corporations, and by people. And the times, they are a’changing…if we don’t loose focus, if we don’t lose momentum.
While it is important to realize that white people have privilege in this culture, cultural change will not happen if we try to guilt white people into change. Change will happen because all people will see the benefit of cultural change. We need a living wage that can support each and every family. We need to put an end to racial profiling—and not just institutionalized racial profiling, but the racial profiling that the vast majority of us do multiple times a day whether consciously or unconsciously--so that people of all colors can feel safe with one another. We need to teach people to respect each other’s cultures so that we will all learn to be more effective in working with one another.
I realize that life is complicated and solutions seem far in the future—and to some seem impossible—but I hold a hope that change is possible. It only takes a few committed individuals willing to keep the issue in the front of people’s minds and to give people a glimpse of a changed future. Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1965, “There are all too many people who, in some great period of social change, fail to achieve the new mental outlooks that the situation demands. There is nothing more tragic than to sleep through a revolution.” My friends, wake up, stay awake, and never rest until the change we seek in the future becomes the change we’re living now.