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.

The 8th Principle

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.”

Principles One Page

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.

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.