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Antiracism groups raise concerns about Arizona GA

In debate over UUA’s 2012 General Assembly, DRUUMM modifies boycott stance; LUUNA and ARE still favor boycott.
By Jane Greer
6.18.10

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The Arizona state flag. (Courtesy of the Arizona Secretary of State's Office)

Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM), an organization of UU people of color, has modified its stance with regard to boycotting Phoenix as the site of the 2012 UUA General Assembly. Instead of calling for a boycott, DRUUMM announced in a June 15 statement on its website that it is monitoring the debate about meeting in Phoenix, asking that discussion include a recognition of the safety concerns that Latina/o/Hispanic UUs and UUs of color have about meeting in Arizona.

The Latina/o Unitarian Universalist Networking Association (LUUNA), an organization of Latina/o UUs, is still calling for a boycott of Phoenix, according to a statement released June 14, but supports the idea of a strong UU public witness in Arizona.

Allies for Racial Equity, an organization of white UUs formed to be accountable to communities of color, expressed continuing support for a boycott, according to a June 17 letter to the UUA board, while urging UU participation in ongoing public witness in Arizona.

At issue is Arizona Senate Bill 1070, which would empower local police to check the immigration status of anyone in the course of a “lawful contact,” if they had a “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be undocumented. Many fear that the law will lead to increased racial profiling and deportations. After SB 1070 was passed at the end of April, the UUA board held a special meeting May 6, issuing a resolution asking delegates at this year’s General Assembly in Minneapolis to approve the selection of an alternate site for the 2012 GA in Phoenix. The resolution asks congregations to cover the $615,000 in cancellation fees the UUA would incur, and asks them to contribute an equal or greater amount for public witness work in Arizona.

DRUUMM, LUUNA, and ARE released statements supporting a boycott.

Then, on June 10, UUA President Peter Morales issued a letter asking UUs not to boycott. Morales urged UUs to come to Phoenix as scheduled in 2012 and use GA as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with those most impacted by this legislation. His letter included an invitation from two immigrant advocacy groups, Puente and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network: “We ask that your 2012 General Assembly here in Phoenix be a convergence in cooperation with us and that together we design the best ways that UUs can witness, learn from, take action, and serve the movement here,” they wrote.

DRUUMM said in its June 15 statement that it wanted UUs to consider three points as they discuss a possible boycott. The first is the importance of making UU congregations into “effective partners in the divisive discussion about immigration in our country.” The second is a recognition of the concerns that many Latina/o/Hispanic UUs and UUs of color have for their physical and spiritual safety if they go to Arizona; and the third is to make sure that any meeting in Phoenix be used as an opportunity for effective public witness addressing “the fear- and hate-based policies of the state of Arizona.”

LUUNA still supports a boycott, although it endorsed Morales’s “call to act in solidarity with justice groups in Arizona and elsewhere, and his request to ‘explore together how we make connections with marginalized people in each and every community, in each and every congregation.’” LUUNA wrote that it considered the boycott a separate issue from the invitation to witness in Arizona. Like DRUUMM, LUUNA urged UUs to “listen carefully to those individuals from traditionally marginalized communities.”

ARE also continues to advocate a boycott, expressing fear that, if General Assembly were held in Arizona in 2012, it “would incur costs to our community that would far outweigh the benefits to our presence.” These costs include the possible devaluation of concerns expressed by some Latina/o UUs and UUs of color about their safety; the creation of a sense of “false competition” between the needs of those UUs and Arizona UUs; lost opportunities for mobilizing UUs already primed to move forward with this issue; and the “dilution” of impact in Arizona caused by trying to transform the bylaw-mandated GA into a major public witness event. ARE voiced support for both an alternative public witness event in Arizona and an immediate and ongoing partnership between UUs and Puente and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

The executive committee of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, meanwhile, passed a resolution June 3 condemning SB 1070. The UUMA annual meeting, which will precede GA, will include presentations about the boycott debate, but the executive committee is urging the ministers association not to take a formal position on a boycott. “We suggest that little or nothing would be gained by forcing our membership to either support or to reject the UUA board resolution at this time,” the executive committee wrote. “[R]ather than argue among ourselves the Exec suggests that we focus our efforts on overturning the bill and helping to keep this misguided anti-immigrant effort from taking hold in other states or provinces.”


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