You Can Be The Change
We Should All Be So Privileged
I knew that I could vote and that that wasn't a privilege; it was my right. Every time I tried I was shot, killed or jailed, beaten or economically deprived.– Stokely Carmichael, as quoted in Be the Change Session 5, Can We Live With Racism?
"Be the Change"By Eric Broner and Rev. Jonathan Rogers
As the racial perspectives of many in our congregation have been challenged this year, we have sought through vigils, worships and discussions to make sense of what is wrong with our country. For us in the Young Religious Unitarian Universalists high school youth group of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta, the Be the Change youth religious education curriculum has provided a helpful framework for asking and contemplating the difficult questions associated with race. For example: "can we live with racism?" Many folks in our group had never needed to or chosen to deal with such questions, although of course we cannot ignore them with stories like those of Michael Brown and Eric Garner exposing the depths of racial inequality still experienced in our country today.
Sometimes questions are not enough though, especially when our siblings in spirit are suffering and dying from the effects racism has on our society. Be the Change has given us tools to think independently about prejudice, power and oppression, in their interpersonal, institutional, and ideological forms. It has helped us to see the unearned ease of life one has when one is part of a privileged majority; it is rare that we are exposed to all the benefits we receive just based on who our parents are. This has helped us to see a lot of situations differently.
In the poignant words of comedian Chris Rock: "The advantage that my children have is that my children are encountering the nicest white people that America has ever produced. Let’s hope America keeps producing nicer white people." (Read more here.–Ed.) A lot of folks in Unitarian Universalist congregations around the country this winter are asking the equivalent of "how can we be nicer white people?" We are also asking how we can more effectively foster interracial dialogue among our young people. We are asking what we can do when the answer to "can we live with racism?" is "no." The Be the Change curriculum provides clever, astute and engaging ways to begin answering these questions. Developing a nuanced analysis of race, learning how to be in conversation in diverse groups, growing as spiritually mature individuals and congregations: these are the immense challenges before us if we are to effectively fight racism in the United States. We hope Be the Change can help your youth group begin to work on them as it has ours.
About the authors: Eric and Jonathan are members of the Youth/Adult Council of the UU Congregation of Atlanta and facilitators of Be the Change course sessions. They love building beloved community and running cross-country, and both have 5K personal records under 20 minutes. Contactjonathan [dot] rogers [at] uuca [dot] org ( jonathan [dot] rogers [at] uuca [dot] org) for more information about their experiences with Be the Change, or to find out who's PR is faster.