I first met Paula Cole Jones about 14 years ago when she led a workshop for Unitarian Universalists at her home church, All Souls Unitarian in Washington DC. Paula has worked on racial justice issues with UU congregations for over 20 years and was raised UU. The workshop was on different ways of and learnings about being anti-racist and counter oppressive. It was brilliant. She offered an expanded version of that workshop for UU clergy about a year later, and again I was impressed with how brilliant her ideas were. However, they were complex and hard to translate into a sermon and into the eager ears of my members as I preached about the challenges of transforming into a Beloved Community.
Paula’s work showed her again and again that in order to fully engage in dismantling systemic structures of white supremacy culture, there needed to be space for truth and accountability before reconciliation could ever happen. Working off a vision of the overlap between our 7 Principles and the idea of Beloved Community (multicultural community), she worked with another UU, Bruce Pollack-Johnson, from Philadelphia. Along with some others, they formed the radical idea of adding an 8th Principle. The wording needed to be different than the other Principles, because a different outcome was needed. Yes, being anti-racist is implied in the other Principles, but not explicitly and there is nothing to hold ourselves accountable. Without accountability there is no path to healing and no Beloved Community.
Paula and Bruce realized that in order for UU’s to really engage with the work, the 8th Principle needed to be adopted from the ground up, not top down from the UUA. They gained the support from Black and African American UU’s, and then, one by one, since 2017, they’ve been working with congregations all over the country to adopt the 8th Principle, over 220 have passed it as of August 2022.
Over many years, UU’s have passed multiple resolutions about becoming more anti-racist and multicultural at General Assembly, but it’s not until the deep commitment at congregational and personal level have been made, can we truly begin to work at creating Beloved Community.
The trick is, becoming anti-racist is not a yes or no decision. It’s a process of shifting perspective and learning again and again, about our white identity and the white culture in which we swim. It can be very uncomfortable, yet the discomfort of white members of our community does not compare to the deep pain of BIPOC UU’s who have endured systemic micro and macro aggression over decades.
Thank you for staying engaged in this important conversation with respect and love.
Cheers, Rev. Kate