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I'm proud of UU culture

That's my culture you have identified as the number-one barrier to diversity.
By John F. Katz
Spring 2010 2.15.10

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Paul Rasor and Rosemary Bray McNatt’s essays left me initially confused, but ultimately dismayed.

By itself, Rasor’s essay seems to wander and bounce like a lazily cued billiard ball from hand-wringing over our alleged lack of diversity, to cautioning against seeking diversity for its own sake, to suggesting that we are morally and theologically obligated to do exactly that. The net result, for me, would have been little more than a mild head­ache, had I not gone on to read McNatt’s article as well. She writes: “We also underestimate . . . a resistance rooted not so much in racism as in matters of class and culture. Many of us . . . brag about not owning a television, because there is nothing worth watching unless it is PBS. Many of us . . . refuse to listen to popular music because it is misogynistic and violent. . . . Many of us eat locally, we shop at farmer’s markets, and we would never be caught in Wal-Mart.”

Yes, Rev. McNatt, that is my culture that you have identified as the number-one barrier to diversity—and yes, I am “pretty proud” of it. Damn right I don’t listen to music that promotes violence, misogyny, and homophobia. Nor do I wallow in a pop culture that actively exploits anti-intellectualism. If that makes me a geek, or a nerd, or (gasp!) a snob—then so be it. More of us geeks/nerds/snobs would make the world a gentler place.

Yes, I noticed that McNatt includes herself in the UU culture she criticizes, and even makes room in it for others, “no matter what our race or ethnicity.” So what, then, is the problem? If non-whites can meld so easily into our snob-culture that it becomes invisible even to them, then someone please tell me what we’re doing wrong.

But now I wonder if, when Rasor contrasts the 95 percent of turn-of-the-twentieth-century immigrants who were “European” against the 87 percent of modern immigrants who are not, he is somehow implying that non-Europeans are less capable than Europeans of becoming “us.” Because if he is, then he is blindly perpetuating the bigotry of the largely northern European elites of those earlier times, who feared that my southern and central/eastern European ancestors would never assimilate, either.

Ultimately, nothing in either article convinces me that UUs can’t work side-by-side with people of all colors and different faiths when we share a common goal. Nor do I see any reason to doubt that when we do that, some of those people will discover—as many of us did—that they have in fact been UUs all their life. They just didn’t know that there was such a religion, or such a place where they belonged.

It is among our most sacred duties to maintain that place of belonging for the Rest of Us—for those of us who do not fit comfortably into the popular culture, nor anywhere else for that matter. Rasor fears that “we are changing much more slowly than the society around us.” Could this have less to do with race than with the fact that we actually stand for something? We do not allow our principles to be blown and battered, neither by the random winds of fashion nor the guilt-fraught torrents of political correctness.


For a guide to related articles, read "What is UU culture?"

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