In her sermon yesterday, Rev. Charlotte Arsenault made this powerful observation: that when Unitarian Universalists covenant ourselves to our seven Principles, we are covenanting ourselves to dangerous things. Standing together for our Principles has meant throughout our history individuals giving their lives for what they mean.
We covenant. What does that mean? To covenant means to come together, to gather ourselves around something, to form community and relationships around and because of something (from Latin, convenire = to come together).
We come together and create community around the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
There have been times–especially most recently during the Civil Rights Movement–when Unitarians and Universalists gave their lives standing for the civil rights of all Americans. Confronting White Supremacy is dangerous business because it has run the institutions of this country for all of our existence. It still does, and while I am likely not to be put to the point of death today for standing against the white supremacy system wherever I am able to see and hear it, it does call us to stand and gather ourselves around the inherent worth and dignity of whoever is being threatened by it.
I wrote recently of what has been called that “between you and me” kind of conversation that happens among white people about people of color. I became aware, recently, that another white person had actually engaged me in a “between you and me” moment, and it caught me unawares. I only saw what had happened after the moment passed. It was clear to me that I had failed to speak and take a stand. I was sucked into the system, and I am fairly certain that the person who so engaged me was unaware herself of what she was doing (which is not to defend it). I’ve had some time to ponder. I think I will hear this “between you and me” the next time it shows up. What will I do? I will use the script and respond with something like this: “Between you and me, this Person of Color that you are talking about deserves more respect than this. We can do better here, can’t we?”
I don’t expect to be killed for doing something like this. I do expect to die–even if a little bit–to the naivete and ignorance in which white supremacy allows me to function.
We covenant ourselves to dangerous things.