RE Newsletter 6-4-20 with Anti-Racist Parenting Resources

In the waves of disheartening news over the past week following the murder of George Floyd and countless others, it was a relief to be inspired by a Facebook post by a friend back home the other day. Her daughter is six months old, and my friend is already teaching her about racism and racial justice. She posted a photo of the baby in her highchair, smiling at two photographs – one of a black baby her age, and one of a white baby. She posted about how they discussed that both babies are smart and beautiful, how they took the time to point out what was the same and different. The conversations really can start that early and that gently, even though the topic is anything but gentle.

In this newsletter you will find our regular Zoom links and some updates, as well as some anti-racist resources that you and your children can explore together. Especially significant is the webinar being hosted by Fourth Universalist in New York on Thursday evening, June 4th on the topic of anti-racist parenting. I will be attending, and if you would be interested in a parenting circle to keep the conversation going, please let me know as soon as possible and we can start as early as next week. Until then, be sure to note the time change for our RE offering and details for picking up your family’s seedlings this Saturday below.

It can be easy to fall into hopelessness as we consider the enormous plague of injustice in our country. However, we have the greatest reasons to hope snuggled into our chests and driving us up the walls as we continue to parent through quarantine. Our children, the future leaders of the Universe, may be growing up in times that fall short of our ideals, but knowing them, they have no intentions of leaving things the way they are. May we continue to forge the path to a fair and peaceful world so that when they are ready to take over, they will be well-prepared by our example.


Online Resources:
Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup

Anti-Racist resouces scaffolded by phases of white identity

10 Children’s Books About Racism And Activism To Help Parents Educate Their Kids

A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory (YouTube)

Not My Idea – A Book About Whiteness (YouTube)

Something Happened In Our Town – A Child’s Story of Racial Injustice (YouTube)

Events:
Thursday 6-4-20 at 7:15 PM
“How to Be an Anti-Racist Parent,” an expert panel presented by Fourth Universalist (Zoom link)

Saturday 6-6-20 at 10:00 AM
CNN and ‘Sesame Street’ to host a town hall addressing racism


nottooyounghow to be an antiracist parent


Virtual Lesson Plan for Ostara with COVID-19 Tie-In

Feel free to use or adapt this lesson plan with attribution. Email me at uuctdre2810@gmail.com with any questions or concerns.


CHALICE LIGHTING

CHECK IN

What is something good that happened this week?

What is something that you worried about?

STORY
Adapted from The Ostara Bunny by Rev. Christina Leone

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago… There was a Goddess. Her name was Ostara, or Eostre. Do you have any ideas what she might have been the Goddess of? What about words that are kind of similar to her name? (Easter)

She was the Goddess of springtime. What happens in springtime? (Flowers bloom, it gets warmer, new things are born, the world ‘wakes up’ from winter.)

This Goddess gave birth to the sun, and helped it shine brighter every day in the sky. She was the bringer of warmth, and color. Her festival day is the Spring Equinox (which happened this past Thursday,) and celebrates new life and springtime.

And one day, while she was going about her very important business, a little girl came to her. The little girl had found a small bird on the ground. The ground was still very cold, because spring was not quite there… Ostara hadn’t finished her work yet. The little bird was injured, and very cold… The little bird was dying.

“Please!” the little girl pleaded with the goddess Ostara. “Please save this little bird.” The goddess was annoyed. “Can’t you see that I’m busy here?” But the girl was persistent. “Please, it won’t take much. Just help bring the bird back to life!”

The Goddess was so moved by the little girl’s pleas that she agreed to help the bird However, the bird was too weak and broken to be fully fixed. The Goddess knew that something would have to change for the bird to survive. She carefully considered what to do, and decided to turn the bird into a different animal instead.

What kind of animal do you think she decided on?

What kind of animal would you choose?

Well, in this story, she decided to turn the bird into a rabbit. She was stronger than ever, and could hop a long way, and had a big fluffy coat that could keep her warm, instead of light little feathers like before. So, happily, the bird-bunny hopped away.

But because the bunny used to be a bird, there was something a little different about her. She had big, floppy ears like a bunny and hopped like a bunny, but she still laid eggs like a bird. And every springtime, the bunny remembers how the Goddess helped her. So, to say thank you, she lays colorful, beautiful eggs to honor the colors of springtime that Ostara brings. It brings those eggs to the children to honor the child who saved her life.

FOLLOW UP:

So, I have a couple things for you to think about.

First of all, just like any story from any religion, we don’t know if the Ostara story really happened, or if it happened this way, right? But what do we know about stories like this?

We do know they probably come from something that has some truth to it. It might be just a tiny little nugget of truth, but there’s probably something in that story that was inspired by something that really happened.

What do you think might be a nugget of truth here?

I think the part of the story I want to focus on is where the little girl asked the Goddess for help and convinced her to do something about the bird that was hurt, because someone asking someone else for help seems pretty realistic to me.

So, here’s my big question: how can we make this story relevant to right now?

Take responses

So, what’s going on in the world right now?

Coronavirus, social distancing, etc.

Right! So, you all are the kids in this story. The little girl in the story made a big difference, right? If she didn’t ask the Goddess to help, the little bird probably wouldn’t have healed, and then we wouldn’t have the colorful eggs and other celebrations that the bird inspired after they were turned into a rabbit, right?

And before this happened, nobody had even heard of an Ostara bunny that laid brightly colored eggs! So, maybe right now, while we’re all being great helpers and keeping each other safe by staying home and washing our hands, we’re also doing something really big and important, like bringing spring or creating something new and awesome.

Maybe we’re all making way for something like a bunny that brings bright eggs, without even realizing it? I think that’s the truth in this story – that we can create something amazing, even when things are unsure or kind of scary, like finding a sick little bird.

Discussion

ACTIVITY – SHOW AND TELL

So, the Goddess Eostre turned the bird into a bunny, so we’re going to turn into birds and bunnies, too.

Can you hop like a bunny? Or if hopping isn’t possible for you, can you twitch your nose and give yourself bunny ears?

I want you to hop around wherever you are – carefully!- and find something that makes you feel brave or safe to share with the group. It can be a blanket or a pet or anything you’d like. I’m going to go get mine too, and we’ll all meet back here in just a minute.

Show and tell.

Awesome! Now, fly like a bird to put your special thing back where it goes, and when you get back we’ll do our chalice extinguishing.

ANNOUNCEMENTS/CLOSING/CHALICE EXTINGUISHING

Affirmations to Our Inner Children

On Sunday, February 16, 2020, I asked the congregation of UUCT to write down a message they wish they had heard when they were younger. These affirmations to our inner children were written on small wooden hearts, which were then assembled into a chain that will be placed in our new Religious Exploration classroom, so we can surround our children with the kinds of messages we needed when we were children.

Sometimes, the massive amount of injustice and pain in this world seems beyond daunting – it seems impossible to even fully comprehend, let alone begin to heal. But I get to see firsthand in my job that we are already healing, that love is already winning, because it is alive and well in the beautiful and brilliant children and youth I get to serve. They are living proof that the Beloved Community is achievable, and they are made so by the love of their families and communities. The generations growing up surrounded by these messages are the ones who will continue to change the world.

We are doing such good work.


  1. Ever lasting love
  2. You are great
  3. Never forget me
  4. Love yourself
  5. What I believe is ok
  6. You are ok just the way you are
  7. It is ok to cry
  8. Your creativity will take you far
  9. Love yourself, see your beauty, you are beautiful
  10. You are lovable
  11. Express what you are feeling
  12. You got this
  13. You can handle this
  14. U R awesome
  15. You can rest
  16. Keep trying
  17. You are light. Love you now.
  18. You will improve the world
  19. Thank you for helping. I love you.
  20. Go where you are celebrated
  21. You are who you are. You are enough.
  22. You are loved and you are worthy of love
  23. Love one another
  24. I am worthy
  25. You are loved
  26. I love your sense of wonder and exploration
  27. Love
  28. You are loved
  29. Acceptance
  30. Listen to inside. Expand your embrace.
  31. Hugs
  32. I ❤ U
  33. I care for you
  34. You are good enough
  35. You are great. Love you.
  36. Understand
  37. It’s ok to not know everything
  38. Jesus loves
  39. I love you
  40. It’s ok not to be perfect
  41. You are loved
  42. You are loved
  43. You can’t love anyone until you love yourself
  44. I love you
  45. It’s ok
  46. I am lovable
  47. I’m glad you are here
  48. You are awesome
  49. Love – “Love!”
  50. You are great
  51. I do love myself
  52. You got this!
  53. You are loved
  54. Everyone is smart in their own way
  55. Speak your heart
  56. I love your hair
  57. You are special to me
  58. What a fine job
  59. You are lovable
  60. You are awesome
  61. How you feel matters
  62. Forgive yourself
  63. UR Loved
  64. You are important to me
  65. You are very special
  66. You are perfect the way you are
  67. Be free
  68. You are NOT “too much”
  69. Loved.
  70. Aspire to love
  71. You are special
  72. Good luck!
  73. Today, I believe in myself
  74. Love!
  75. You are already doing it!
  76. You’re loved.
  77. Don’t hide your light
  78. You are loved
  79. You can do it!
  80. Glorious you!
  81. You are special
  82. I am so proud of you!
  83. What a great job!
  84. You are beautiful.
  85. Be proud of you
  86. The world is better with you in it!
  87. Your inherent worth and dignity are inarguable and unconditional
  88. Ask for help
  89. You are important

What is Unitarian Universalism Anyway?
The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Donald Trump
Flower Communion Compassion Meditation
“Love is the Spirit”
Enough

IMG_4853

Both

Today they’re wearing a pink tutu that I’m pretty sure was part of a Minnie Mouse costume at one point, with sparkly light up Paw Patrol shoes and a fuzzy pink jacket complete with a unicorn horn on the hood. I wish I was half as cool as Henry.

Walking out of the preschool, another parent walks beside me as I hum a tune from Les Mis and scroll through Instagram without actually looking at any pictures. I think of the cup of coffee rapidly cooling in my car, and the pile of tasks waiting for me when I get to work.

“Excuse me.”

I glance up to see the other parent looking at me. I had seen them briefly in Henry’s classroom, though I’m sure I don’t know their name, or even which kid they belong to.

I smile. “Hi.”

“I have a question.”

My conscious mind doesn’t even begin to respond before my mama bear instinct does. My pulse quickens just so slightly, and I inhale sharply. I can feel the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention, prepared for whatever battle is to come.

I have had this conversation more times than I can count. It’s almost a script by now.

I will avoid using their name and I will not use any binary pronouns or identifiers like son or daughter. I will stress the fact that Henry chooses their own clothing so long as it is appropriate for the weather, even if that means wearing a superhero cape to church. If pressed, I will respond that they are simply a person with inarguable inherent worth and dignity. If pressed further, I will ask why the other party seems to be so interested in a four-year-old child’s genitalia.

And it is exhausting.

Even in my progressive Unitarian Universalist bubble, there are those who do not want to understand, and those who are so committed to saying the right thing that they often say nothing at all, avoiding interactions and healthy discourse in favor of avoiding feeling uncomfortable.

I am uncomfortable knowing that these fellows I love fall short of our shared values every time they pretend they don’t see gender. It is not the same, but it does remind me of the incredible harm caused by claiming that one does not see race.

The other parent stands close to me. They look at me, and then at the ground. Their arms are crossed in the unholy 40-degree Florida chill.

“The gender of your child…?” they implore. Their voice is soft, and their eyes are kind. My whole body relaxes as I realize they are not looking for a battle, they just want to understand.

“Henry identifies as both,” I respond. “They were assigned male at birth and they wear whatever they want. I’m just along for the ride.”

“Oh, cool.” And we begin walking again. “I just wasn’t sure, and I was wondering.”

“No worries,” I respond, mentally chastising myself for my initial assumptions about how this conversation would go.

“And thank you for being so nice about it. Sometimes people are real jerks.”

I don’t think they said anything else as we went our separate ways in the parking lot, Les Mis already playing through my head once more. Once I returned to the warmth of my car, an incredible gratitude washed over me.

We begin to un-learn our trauma responses by being shown kindness where we have not before.

This person did not ask the perfect question in the perfect way, they were not perfectly woke or an expert, they were simply kind, nonjudgmental, and willing to try to understand.

The best any of us can do is be kind, nonjudgmental, and willing to try to understand.


More posts like this:

The Dress
God(dess)
The Value of Affirmation
Identify

The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Donald Trump

When we teach our children the 7 UU principles, instead of “we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people” we simplify it a little bit and say, “each person is important.”

In my opinion, that first principle kind of covers it. If we acknowledge that each person is important, that we all matter and have the same worth, then the rest of them come along naturally, right?

I thought the same thing when I studied social work. The National Association of Social Workers has a code of ethics that social work students begin studying their first year. The very first item in the code, section 1.01, reads:

“Social workers’ primary responsibility is to promote the well-being of clients.”

Following the same logic as before, if a social worker is to promote the wellbeing of their clients, then the rest of the code really goes back to that. We don’t sleep with clients because it does not promote their well-being. We do stay culturally competent because it does promote their well-being. We engage in continuing education because it promotes the well-being of our clients, but we don’t charge them outrageous rates for services because that doesn’t.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re a social worker – I know some of you actually are. Let’s pretend that you’re a social worker and you have a client who is racist and sexist and their job puts them in a position of incredible power over people of color and women. Let’s pretend they say things that make you question their sanity and stability, that they suffer from delusions of grandeur and habitually neglect their physical health.

How would you promote the well-being, or the inherent worth and dignity, of Donald Trump?

If you asked Donald, I’m sure he would tell you that he is very important. Maybe he had one Sunday of religious exploration back in the day and that’s what stuck. In any case, I can’t imagine that he doubts his own inherent worth and dignity, at least at face value. Having studied human behavior in school and in life, I suspect that he has some deep-seeded fears of inadequacy that influence his behavior, but there are countless people much more qualified than myself to discuss the psychology of his behavior.

So, if Donald Trump likely has no problem owning his inherent worth and dignity, then why should we care about affirming and promoting it?

I’d like to suggest that “we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people” has less to do with “all people” than it has to do with “we.”

Perhaps the face-value message of that statement, that we are all equal and deserve to be treated as such, is only one level.

I’d like to suggest that affirming and promoting the inherent worth and dignity of all people is a charge to those of us who claim these principles, a statement of how we intend to behave when we are in the arena.

Social work researcher and author Brene Brown has now famously quoted Theodore Roosevelt when speaking on this topic:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”  -Theodore Roosevelt

Brown’s work is another series of essays of its own accord. What I’d like to focus on here is the concept of the arena. In ancient times, gladiators fought to the death in the arena. Today, the stakes might be much lower with things like the Superbowl or Olympics.

But beyond spectator sports, there is another arena – the society where each and every day, we are accosted by racist, classist, and sexist systems of oppression, by environmental destruction, by the people emboldened by leaders who fuel the fires of discrimination with sensationalized hate speech and outright lies.

Each and every day, we are in the arena with Donald Trump. We are in the arena with the people who voted for him, the systems and patterns that got him into office, and the society that allows all of it to exist.

As Unitarian Universalists, our values clearly show us that we have no choice but to engage in this fight. What we must now do is decide how we will choose fight it.

Respecting the inherent worth and dignity of Donald Trump does not mean that his behavior is excusable. It does not mean that we will stop striving for a fair and peaceful world, that we will submit to hate.

Because affirming and promoting Donald Trump’s inherent worth and dignity says very little about him and everything about us.

Choosing to be a UU in this arena is choosing to side with love. It is choosing the high road. It is showing up. Being a UU in this arena is choosing to be a part of the reason most of us like to believe that the good folx will always win in the end.

It is also choosing our battles, protecting our energy, and trusting that the beloved community has our backs when we have to step away.

This arena is gruesome. It is exhausting to care so much in a world that seems not to. It is overwhelming to think about the massive work that is yet to be done.

But our children are watching. The future is depending on us. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

This country is still in its infancy in the grand scheme of things, and it hasn’t had the greatest childhood so far. Psychological research indicates that trauma responses – behaviors, sometimes maladaptive, that come about in response to traumatic events or circumstances – are passed from generation to generation if they are not intentionally addressed. Moreover, some biological research suggests that trauma leaves a legacy in our very DNA.

Left unacknowledged, trauma will always manifest elsewhere – as anger, as addiction, as issues with control or our sense of worth. These troubles compound with every generation it goes unaddressed.

I can’t begin to untangle the mess of trauma and pain that has yielded the current state of this country, but when we consider that it was stolen from her native people and built upon the backs of stolen people, the generational trauma theory makes some sense.

This is the arena we are in – an arena of trauma: generational trauma, cultural trauma, personal traumas, trauma to the land and the creatures we share it with. In such an arena, how does one hope to exist?

For me, I hope to exist bravely. I hope to stay steadfast in my values. I hope, when I hear Donald Trump spew hatred and lies about minorities or people who believe differently than him, I can affirm and promote my own inherent worth and dignity enough to not match his vitriol with my own, but to put my disgust and anger into positive action.

I hope I can affirm and promote his inherent worth and dignity enough to wish him the healing he so very clearly needs. I hope I can be surrounded with fellow UUs engaging in the labor of loving the hell out of this world as we all struggle to make a difference.

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for to heal the traumas that this country was built upon. We have the opportunity to continue the work of scrubbing clean the DNA of the world we live in, to tend to the soil and plant seeds instead of wondering why nothing will grow on poisoned land.

If we are lucky, our legacy will not be in the traumatized DNA of the generations to come, but in the great heights they might climb from trees rooted firmly in values that will not allow hate to persist, and will not stoop to hate’s level to end it.

It is a colossal and worthy cause. At best, these principles we strive to live by will not only be ideals but standards, and at worst, we know we will never find ourselves beside those cold and timid souls who were not willing or able to even try and commit to radical love – but we will affirm and promote their inherent worth and dignity, too.

 

“Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
-Matthew 5:43-44

Christianity-Informed Patriarchy in the United States as a System of Oppression

This paper and presentation are the product of two semesters of work at East Tennessee State University. I am proud of myself for the quality of the work and just for completing it, especially in the midst of single parenting, relocating to a new state, starting a new career, and continuing on the beautiful and rigorous spiritual journey I’ve set out on, and for earning a perfect score on the assignment.

You can see the presentation video and read the full text of the paper below. I look forward to learning more about this topic as I begin my studies at Starr King School for the Ministry next semester.

Capstone PDF

Instructor Feedback:

“Helen, Students rarely earn a perfect score on the Capstone, but you have earned this. Your argument is well-written, well-organized, logical and uses reliable sources to support your points. You are insightful in your analysis—pointing out that the idea of redemption for a “sin” that humankind (particularly women) have never committed and building a belief system around it is brilliant. The fact that gender roles also harm men is an idea that most people never consider. Congratulations on completing the Capstone, and I truly wish you the best as you continue on to graduate school. You will make an amazing leader in the field of true spirituality. Happy Winter Solstice!”

 

 

White

I went back to school when Henry was six months old. That first evening, my chubby-cheeked infant pulled themselves up to my computer and stared, mesmerized by the bright light. Though statistics wasn’t either of our strong suits, their interest was adorable and motivating. Ever since, such assistance with my schoolwork has been commonplace, so it didn’t surprise me three years later when they snuggled up next to me in bed to help with Sociology of Minorities.

I was watching a video about Filipino Americans in the early twentieth century.

“My father was Filipino,” the woman on the screen said, “and my mother was white.”

She went on to explain how they had to go to another state to be married, as interracial marriage was unlawful in California at the time. However, I could barely hear her words over Henry, who suddenly began to cry inconsolably.

“Oh no!”

“What’s wrong? Are you ok?”

“I don’t know what color my mom is!”

Wiping a tear from their porcelain cheek, I thought about how much privilege my young child already has in order to be nearly four years old and have no concept of race.

I wondered at what age black children realize they are black. I wondered at what age they realize what that means.

When we moved from Tennessee to Florida this summer, we drove overnight. We stopped at one point to marvel at the stars over South Georgia. Even in Tennessee, I had never seen the stars so clearly.

In the dark of night, I did not see the cotton fields.

Driving back north for a visit some months later, I saw those unmistakable little white tufts of cotton blossoming on both sides of the road. I wondered whose bones we were driving over. I tried to find the words to explain to Henry the injury of the land we were traveling, but how does one explain the atrocities of humankind? When spoken aloud and dissected, they honestly seem too absurd and cruel to be true.

But they do exist, they are true, and it is pure privilege to wonder how to explain them to my child when other children are born with the reality that generational trauma in their DNA.

“I am three, I am three…” Henry sang as we drove. A month into preschool and they were already very interested in numbers and colors, though with their toddler lisp it sounded more like, “I am free, I am free…”

Audre Lorde said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

Not everyone is free.

So, none of us can be.

Perhaps my child, tenderhearted at three years old, so concerned with the plight of caterpillars and superheroes, truly does not see color, has no idea that their mom is white and what that means. Perhaps, in our most natural, childlike state, none of us do. However, the reality that white supremacy built stole the privilege of that innocence from us all.

White folx have hundreds of years of damage to undo and even with profound and concentrated effort, how do we scrub that trauma from our black siblings’ DNA?

None of us are free.

Our black siblings are still enslaved by a so-called “civilized” society built upon their stolen blood, by mass incarceration, by police brutality, by a society that manufactured race to justify its own sick desire to oppress.

White people will not be free from our obligation to liberate our fellow travelers from these chains until the deed is done so thoroughly that our hands are as clean of their blood as their DNA is from trauma.

I told my child, “Your mom is white, honey. And so are you.”

I told them each person is important.

I told them that not all police officers are good guys.

I told them that there are no bad people, there are just people who do bad things sometimes.

I told them that the stars over South Georgia are breathtaking, but we must never close our eyes to what is growing in the earth beneath our feet.

I told them none of us are free while anyone is unfree, even when their shackles are very different than our own.

 


Ok, but what can anyone actually do about racism, white supremacy culture, and the general culture of inequity in America?

First and foremost – VOTE!

I’ve been reading Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” and you should too.

This conversation about anti-racism is also a great starting place.

But more than anything – don’t take my word for it. The world does not need another white person talking about racism – we all need to center the voices of those impacted and actually listen. Listen to the people of color in your life (but don’t expect them to be responsible for educating you, because they are not.) If there are no people of color in your life, start by asking yourself why.