Sermon Excerpt, May 16, 2021
by Joy Miley
Hi and Welcome to the UUSM Justice Express. I am Conductor Joy and I will be your tour guide this morning. I would like to show you around.
We can go nowhere without the track bed and the track. This foundation is built on our UUSM mission to "work together to transform ourselves and the world,” and on the essence of the Seven Principles which includes “the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.”
Here we are at the ARC engine. ARC is UUSM’s Anti-Racist Coalition and our charter is to ensure that anti-racism actions become an integral part of what we do as a religious community both within our walls and beyond. We partner with organizations such as the NAACP, Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), UU the Vote, and Faith in Action.
Our focus is racial justice, but our community continues to work hard in all areas for justice: LGBTQ+ rights, immigration reform, the environment, police and prison reform, and more. We now realize that racial justice intersects all other social justice issues, and oppressive systems affect all areas of our world and must be radically changed to embody fairness and the teachings of love. ARC believes in the concept that Heather McGhee brings to light in her book The Sum of Us: “when one is raised up, everyone is raised up.” This concept is also embodied in Martin Luther King Jr's ‘Network of Mutuality':
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
On this Justice Train, there are many cars….I want to give you a tour of some of them on this train. We start with the Fuel Car... The Fuel Car used to be filled with dirty coal. At UUSM, we're converting our fuel to lovingkindness, anger, compassion, fierce determination and a heart for humanity. We run on love because we have a community that freely gives it and spreads it around. To paraphrase a powerful quote, “Loved People love people.”
The passenger cars make up the soul of the train. In these cars folks are working on identifying and educating people about white supremacy and white privilege so they can be dismantled. This is the seat of the De-centering Whiteness Group ...there’s a seat for you, too.
I know that there is a discomfort around the term White Supremacy. It is too close to the destructive ideas and actions of White Supremacists. White Supremacists embrace hate as a strategy, and want to eliminate other people that they feel threatens their existence. White Supremacy is a broad system in society in which White people are considered superior and therefore are entitled to dominate American culture.
Here’s an example of a phrase that expresses white supremacy, “Everyone has equal access to resources to live the American Dream.” I have heard it called the American nightmare. In chatting about this with a group of friends someone said, “Yea, well at least you can sleep. We don’t sleep cause there is a hunger in our belly that keeps us up.” And as Obama reflected “how can you tell a person to pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they don’t even have boots.” White Supremacy says, “It’s your own fault, that you don’t have boots” [Or, more expressively: “It’s not MY fault YOU don’t have boots...go to the store and get some!” What????]
White privilege is the reality that being white has advantages that other nonwhite people do not have. White privilege for me as a white woman looks like this: When I am pulled over for a traffic stop, I never once consider that I may not be alive to see those I love again. White privilege, whether in ourselves or in others, can be unlearned mainly through awareness and engagement in dismantling it.
Oh, I see that I slipped right into the Education Car. We have a car for Education, The Whole History of American History, and Research. This seems like a quiet car but it is filled with passengers and the wheels are turning. People in this car have shared articles, pictures and sayings with people on the train and we appreciate you. You know who you are, and thank you.
The Action Car is filled with things going on. People here are protesting, writing letters, attending government meetings, marching on Washington, speeches, hosting a documentary on social justice, just to name a few.
Also in the car is a very popular compartment “Social Justice on the Fly”, for those times when you have only minutes to spare for action. This compartment has ideas and tips to help you integrate this work into your life, no matter how little time you think you have for it. There are many great resources out there. One of our favorites for Quick Action around our area is the weekly email from SURJ Bay Area. It offers so many options, and if we each can do one small thing each week or month, it adds up. SURJ also has a group right here in San Mateo!
Here is a fast tip that takes less than three seconds. When you hear a racist story or a story that disparages someone else you can simply say “That is not my experience”. Even 5 words can begin to make an impact
and become a part of who you are and how you respond to the fear and racism within and around you. This is a very, very busy car.
Environmental Justice Car
We have a new car! The Environmental Justice car. The compartments have yet to be decided. I can tell you the exciting part so far, this car has a very low carbon footprint.
We also have a car for renewal. Here we have meaningful conversations, story-telling, fun, laughter and nourishment. In this car there is a special compartment for those who give their love and goodwill, kind words and cheerlead all the teams of UUSM. This means more than you might guess as you provide inspiration, pep talks, lunch for the protestors and you listen with intention. It is true that we don’t need to hear how good we are for doing this work. We do need, however to be lifted when we are sad, angry and discouraged and feeli
This compartment is like the Redwoods. Do you know that the Redwoods have a very shallow root system? Their roots grow out and intertwine with other redwood trees. They stay standing because of the strength of each and every tr
ee. By themselves at their incredible height, they cannot stand, yet with their interdependence they survive wind and floods. I have gone to this car many times during the pandemic. I feel supported and held by a community of gorgeous and powerful trees. And proud of it!
There is no judgement about what station you come to or what car and compartment you enter. You can get on and off the train as you wish, change compartments, stay away for a long time or just take a break. Oh, it’s time for this train to go.