- Doreanne Spotswood
While I have experienced harm in various ways as a Black person within Unitarian Universalism, most of the harm done to me has been from UU ministers or seminarians despite their lofty declarations of collegiality.
During seminary, I was called a quota filler, was told it would be easier if I were not there.
I have spent several different chapter meetings listening to white colleagues compete with one another over the number of “African American” or Black members.
I was asked by a colleague during ministry days to park his car—he tried to hand his keys over even though I was wearing a GA badge and had known him for years. I was invited to preach at a colleague’s church and he put a fellow woman of color colleague’s picture on the front cover with my name.
For years, colleagues would ask if I was in preliminary fellowship. Why this is important I don’t know, but when I would say no, they looked at best surprised and at worst as if I were lying. On the day I received final (now full) fellowship, I was asked over and over if I were getting preliminary fellowship and one colleague loudly insisted I was in the wrong line and needed to gather with the ministers getting preliminary fellowship.
On at least two occasions, colleagues have argued that they know more about the experience of racism and oppression than I do as they marched with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and one had worked with Nelson Mandela. Many colleagues have told me that I am being intimidating and that I should assume “good will.”
Many of the candidates for ministry used black and dark in negative ways. When I asked them what their theology of darkness was they said things like “the absence of God,” “evil,” and “sinful.” When I pressed them about the impact this might have on members of their congregation who identified as Black or brown, a white male colleague reprimanded me and defended this use of language and wouldn’t back down until a white female colleague affirmed what I was saying.
The objectification of female candidates and colleagues was also a regular feature of the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. Male panel members would describe women as attractive and young as if that had anything to do with their qualifications. To be female and of color is more than a double whammy.