Decenter and Receive

IMG_20200623_131834The question of how to address racial justice with kids is huge in my mind, at all times but especially now as the marathon of justice work continues. It is clear to me that the seven (+ proposed 8th) Unitarian Universalist Principles call us to include children in racial justice work.

(I must note again that the ability to choose whether or not to talk about racial justice — as an idea and not an experience — is a privilege. Many BIPOC families have been addressing racial justice with their kids for years out of necessity.)

We know that racial justice is complex. And huge. And daunting. So too are other questions we expect UU children to consider: What do you believe about God? Why do good/bad things happen? What does Unitarian Universalism call you to do?

UU children explore those questions through stories, reflection, and community, supported by UU Principles. 

Approach racial justice in the same way. As you share stories, reflect, and turn to the Principles together, add the practice of decentering.

The practice of decentering is particularly relevant to White people and IPOC as we affirm loudly and unflinchingly the absolute truth that Black lives matter. This is a practice we are called to by the fourth Principle: “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”

Try this with your kids at home. Pick a story to share together. Before you begin, follow this short meditation.

Get comfortable in your space and take a few deep breaths.
Hold both hands out in front of you, palms up. Imagine that you are holding everything that you know in your two hands. Feel the weight of everything that you know pressing against your palms.
Sit with that weight for a moment.
When you are ready, carefully gather everything that you know into one of your hands, leaving the other empty. Close the fingers of your one hand around everything that you know. Keep it safe there.
Feel the emptiness of your other hand, palm open, ready to receive this new story.

Invite your child to keep their hands in that position — one holding everything they know and the other open to receive — as you share the story together.

When you’re finished taking in the story, take another deep breath together. Invite your child to silently notice their reaction to the story, and to hold that reaction inside for a moment.

Then, answer together: How does this story feel, received in your open hand?

It takes practice to set aside your own thoughts and emotions. It takes practice to listen deeply not as a prerequisite to response but as a means to connect with diverse and beautiful truths. This practice is sacred. Do it together, do it often.

Support this and other anti-racist UU work here.

Intro to Race for Kids

I created Intro to Race for Kids Ages 6-12 following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Several parents said that they had no idea how to talk to their kids about what had happened, and so they simply didn’t.

Race Intro

The ability to avoid talking about race and racism is a huge privilege, and one I encourage families to inspect. I know these conversations are daunting, and I hope that these stories and activities help families begin the long-overdue learning about race and racism.

Here’s how you can use this resource alongside other UU families or with families in your wider community.

Along with other families, commit to utilizing this resource for the next four weeks. During that time, schedule weekly meetings just for parents. Begin by creating a covenant: What do we agree to do so we can grow together and support each other, wherever we each are individually in the learning process? This covenant will support the group as you challenge each other, make mistakes, and begin this nonlinear process together.

The resource will ask you to create a Question Wall for your family at home. Create a group question wall for this parent group as well. Use this space to lift up difficult questions — questions your children bring up and questions that you hold during this learning. For questions that have answers but may require some research, consider assigning volunteers to research briefly and share back next week (decide how you will share back after the final week). These volunteers must commit to center BIPOC voices as they search for answers.

At each meeting, consider using these questions to guide your conversation.

  • What are you bringing with you into this space?
  • How do you feel this week’s activities went?
  • What questions do you have for the question wall?
    • Who is willing to research applicable questions?
  • What learning did you notice in yourself this week?
  • What support do you need from your peers?

Talking about race with kids is hard. But committing to doing it alongside other families and building a support system with them will make it just a little easier.

Did you find this parent guide and the Intro to Race for Kids resource useful? Support this and future work by sharing widely and/or offering financial support here.

5 Smooth stones

The stories we share as Unitarian Universalists come from so many different sources– today, I share a story with you about a Unitarian named James Luther Adams. He was born in the early 1900s, and he was a minister and a teacher who spent a lot of time studying lots of different stories and ideas. 

One of the stories that James was interested in was a story in the Hebrew scriptures about David and Goliath. David was the youngest and smallest of many brothers who lived in a land called Israel, and they lived at a time when the Philistine army was getting ready to invade, and their army included a great, big giant, named Goliath. 

Now it happened that now a single soul in Israel thought that it was possible to defeat this giant–except for David. So David volunteered, as he prepared to meet the giant, he thought about what it is he would need and decided that rather than a big suit of armor, what he required was something small, something that he could keep close at hand. So he stopped at the river bed and found 5 smooth stones and put them in a pouch– and it was with these that he defeated Goliath. 

This story made James Luther Adams think; he thought: even if we have never had to face actual great, big giants like Goliath, sometimes the things that face us in our lives feel like great, big giants and sometimes these things might make us feel scared. So he wondered– what 5 things do we all need to keep at our sides, as religious liberals, when we feel like the way forward is impossible? And so, he wrote about the 5 smooth stones of Liberal Religion.

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