Reflections after Thrive Young Adult

By Elizabeth Nguyen

Kaitlin Dey, Thrive Young Adult alumni 2016 and 2017, shared this reflection at her congregation last Sunday.

I spent the last 10 days in New Orleans. I attended Thrive Young Adult. Thrive is part of Grow Racial Justice that is for UU young adults of color, we dove deep into complex questions about identity, power, spirituality and leadership. We got to explore our roles as young adults of color in our UU movement, build relationships with one another around intersecting identities, share practices for healing and resistance, and support each other on the path toward liberation.

While I was at Thrive, I began dialogues about the beauty and the flaws of our faith. As the week continued and General Assembly began, I met with friends I had made last year and we continued our conversation. Being a young UU person of color who is actively involved can be incredible and taxing just like so many other intersections in life. As I spoke to people who were newly considering topics such as white supremacy, I found that there was a common misconception that white supremacy was alluding to a specific person rather than a culture. An image that I found helpful when explaining this concept, was an iceberg. You see, the tip of the iceberg can be a metaphor for those things that are most visible when talking about white supremacy. For example the KKK and Nazis. Whereas the larger more insidious and dangerous parts remain unseen, this part of the iceberg can be likened to the systems that our country was founded on. The terrifying reality is that every single one of us was brought up in a culture that was originally founded to best serve wealthy, white, cis het white men. Anyone else was an “other” and being “other” meant being wrong.

Another thing that I kept hearing from my discussions with allies, was about all of the “thinking” that was being done. Thinking about how to help, thinking about what to say, thinking about what NOT to say, thinking about what to do. Let me offer this: Thinking is a privilege, one that I did not get. I do not, nor have I ever, had the option to think about opting in to discussions on race, or think about how I needed to show up for action. My options are to act or stop existing. So I urge you not to let thinking stand in the way of taking action. The final topic that stood out in my mind from GA was a phrase that I heard over and over. People, specifically white allies, were invited to ‘lean into their discomfort’.

I’m sorry to say, but in my opinion, that is not enough. When I was 5 years old and called a heathen because of the half of myself that is Indian, I was not invited gently to lean in that discomfort; at 7 when I was told that my dark skin and thick hair were ugly, there was no urging for me to lean in then; and when I was 16 years old walking down the street with my sister and we were approached by a well dressed man in a business suit who told us to go the F*** back to our country now that our leader Osama had been killed, I was not gingerly eased in to the discomforts of this work. These scenarios may come as a shock to some of you, but frankly these are just a few instances and they are incredibly mild and pale in comparison to the atrocities that our Black siblings face every day. I was just a child when I was thrown into the deep end of white supremacist culture and my options were to swim or get swallowed by the treacherous waters. So I not only urge you, but I implore you to jump into the deep-end and learn to swim with the weight of your discomfort. Like Lilla Watson says, "If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time… But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."

Until we answer the call of action and unite with our Black and brown siblings, none of us will be free and our faith will not live on for the generations to come. And that is not a future that I want. So please, answer this call, and join us in the work.

Kaitlin Dey is a biracial Unitarian Universalist young adult. Currently attending school and working two jobs; she is a member of Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist church in California, where she serves both as a Worship Associate and as a Member of the Board of Trustees.