The 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.
In 2013, Paula Cole Jones and Bruce Pollack-Johnson proposed an 8th Principle* which reads:
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”
This proposed 8th Principle has not yet been officially ratified by the UUA, but that does not mean it has no place in your UU home practices. I’ve edited the language — but stayed as close to the original message as possible — in hopes of making this Principle more accessible, especially for kids.
My edited version reads:
“We must work together for diversity and against racism & oppression.”
As you turn to the 7 Principles to guide your family’s UU practices, consider adding this 8th Principle to the set. Begin by considering the language and message of this Principle. Talk with your family about what it means, and why it is necessary. Make a list of some ways you can follow this Principle at home and in your wider UU community. Find out what your congregation is doing to promote this Principle.
Begin your practice of turning to the 8 Principles to guide your family’s UU home practices today.
*American UUs currently affirm and promote 7 Principles, but our UU siblings in the Philippines already have 8 Principles. Read more about their Principles here.
Download the 8 Principles poster PDF here. Support this and other anti-racist UU work financially here.