Given at Birmingham Unitarian Church November 13, 2016
Who are we at BUC? Are we only a politically liberal, White congregation or are there others among us? Furthermore, who is the “other”? On my Facebook wall, I posted on Election Day that I was a bad hombre who voted for a nasty woman. I felt anger and disappointment when I awoke on Wednesday morning. That day following the election, I was glued to my Facebook and read the slew of comments, mostly from other UUs that I have met around the country. I read from my White UU friends about disappointment of a lost dream or writing about a new realization that fear over love can prevail in America. For me as a gay Asian and for many others UU members of marginalized communities, the election results were not a new revelation of systemic institutions of oppression. We already knew those existed. The Facebook comments from UUs of Color raised questions like, how will we react to hatred that our President-elect has condoned? Will the Trump administration continue to erode voting rights, rescind marriage equality, reverse Roe vs. Wade, or any other human rights legislation? Will my family be safe?
I internally struggled with how I would express my experiences of the 2016 election to a mostly upper middle class White congregation here at BUC. In the words of the Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti, he wrote about his struggle with the reality that our (mostly) good intentioned, justice-oriented white folks in our UU congregations need spiritual comfort even as people of color continue to reel with shock, disappointment, and grief. It's the pain of feeling like the institutions of government are no longer going to be on our side, and that hard-won progress is now in question. It's the pain of seeing how this election was decided along lines of race, class, education-level, urban/small town/rural, gender, etc - and feeling like he, as am I, are on the losing end of several of those demographics.” I even questioned how BUC’ers would move forward after the election. Will we be able to move beyond ourselves and the fake fights such as do we clap during worship? Or will we show up where the real fight is, which is to engage with dismantling islamophobia, xenophobia, sexism, ableism, racism, and so forth? Are we afraid to go there ourselves or is it just easier to say, we are moving to Canada?
In my moments of fear and anger over this past week, I had come to the realization that this election was not about the basket of deplorables vs. the enlightened. This election had a deeper existential question about what it means to be American and who is included in it? Our Unitarian Universalist ancestors have answered that question by saying that all souls are worthy and we are to stand or (sit) on the side of love. How are we doing at BUC with our call as Unitarian Universalists? How are we with welcoming the “other” among us? Again, who do you think of as the “other” at BUC? Is it that Republican? That Theist? That blue-collar worker? That Asian person? That person who uses a wheelchair? This is the time, more than ever that we need to renew our faith as Unitarian Universalists by reaching out and to fight for that America where everyone is able to bring their authentic selves to the welcome table.