Commission on Institutional Change is collecting testimony through end of September; 60 percent of survey respondents see antiracism work as most important to future of Unitarian Universalism.
The Rev. Leslie Takahashi, chair of the Commission on Institutional Change, addresses the 2019 UUA General Assembly. Standing with her are the other members of the commission, from left: Cir L’Bert Jr., Mary Byron, Elías Ortega, and the Rev. Dr. Natalie Fenimore. (© 2019 Nancy Pierce/UUA)
How important is antiracist, anti-oppressive, multicultural (ARAOMC) work to the future of Unitarian Universalism? According to nearly 60 percent of Unitarian Universalists who responded to a survey at the 2019 UUA General Assembly in Spokane, Washington, it is the most important thing.
The survey, created by the Commission on Institutional Change and distributed through the General Assembly mobile phone app, asked UUs to rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how important they believe ARAOMC work is to the future of the faith. Nearly 91 percent ranked it as an 8, 9, or 10 in importance, with 59.8 percent ranking it as a 10. Of the 2,407 UUs who registered for GA, 625—or over 25 percent—participated in the survey.
The full results of the app survey, which asked a number of questions related to the experience of people of color/indigenous people in UU communities and congregations, will be published on the commission’s blog. Among other things, the survey found that 42.3 percent of respondents said their congregations employ staff of color and 60.3 percent of respondents said their community has people of color in lay leadership roles. These results are important because they “belie the idea that this is all academic because we have no people of color in our midst,” said the Rev. Leslie Takahashi, chair of the commission.
Since it was created in 2017 to assess structural racism and white supremacy culture within the UUA’s institutions and wider religious movement, the commission reports it has been collecting examples of best practices in congregational antiracism work along with testimonies about how systems of institutional racism and white supremacy culture affect UUs and their communities, according to the commission’s blog.
In addition to the app survey, at GA 2019 the commission gathered input through focus groups and discussion groups, Takahashi said. It was important to collect stories and data at the annual meeting because UUs have “a deep commitment to democracy and the way it is effected through our GA, so we put a great deal of resources into collecting data and conversations at GA,” Takahashi said.
The commission has been committed to documenting stories because, while people of color and indigenous people often are aware of them, many white UUs are not, she said. The data collected over the past two years “is probably the biggest data set of the experiences of people of color in our movement that we’ve ever had,” said Takahashi. The commission is in the process of analyzing this data and looking for themes and patterns, she said. The academic research expertise of Commissioner Elías Ortega, president of Meadville Lombard Theological School, is especially helpful, she said. “We’re trying to look at patterns and trends that help us see what kind of institutional change is needed, because that’s [the commission’s] goal,” she said.
The commission is soliciting personal stories and testimonies through the end of September 2019. Email the commission at commission [at] uua [dot] org.
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Elaine McArdle is a UU World senior editor and a member of First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon. An award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she has also written for the Boston Globe, Harvard Law Bulletin, and others.
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