In the week following the 2016 US presidential election, many Unitarian Universalists were looking for ways to show their values in public and to make it clear they did not support the rising tide of hate crimes or the direction the country was headed. In addition to the thousands of social media posts, public statements and one-on-one conversations UUs made that week, here are two approaches that some congregations started using. As these approaches played out, they showed both the potential and the pitfalls ahead of religious progressives who oppose the radical agenda of the incoming administration.
Neighborhood Love Notes
First proposed by UU minister Rev. Ashley Horan, "Neighborhood Love Notes" encouraged people to write chalk messages of hope and justice on sidewalks across the country. Countless UU and other progressive religious groups took her suggestion, and the idea quickly spread across the country. Thousands of people joined the event on Facebook. As Neighborhood Love Notes attracted more attention, including press coverage, it also received some critique for focusing more on passive messages than action.
Read Rev. Horan's blog post on how Neighborhood Love Notes unfolded, and what we can learn.
Wearing Safety Pins
In the wake of Trump's election, wearing a safety pin became a way for the wearer to show they were a "safe" person, or ally to marginalized groups. Many UU congregations handed out safety pins and church. The idea was borrowed from the UK after the Brexit vote, where safety pins were also used to show people who would call out racist and anti-immigrant comments. However, as #safetypin started to trend on Twitter after receiving a number of celebrity endorsements, some prominent writers of color questioned the approach. Like the Neighborhood Love Notes critique, these writers rejected the notion that wearing a common safety pin is enough to make someone an ally in the struggle for justice.
Be sure to check out the Safety Pin Box, a great way to take safety pinning to the next level. Co-founded by UU Leslie Mac, Safety Pin Box describes itself as "a monthly subscription box for white people striving to be allies in the fight for Black Liberation. Box memberships are a way to not only financially support Black femme freedom fighters, but also complete measurable tasks in the fight against white supremacy."
As Unitarian Universalists look for ways to carry their values into the public square and to be a force for justice and compassion, the experience of both Neighborhood Love Notes and safety pins is valuable. When we find ways to show our principles in action, they must be grounded in deep commitments and true relationships that anchor our work to help heal the world.