By Warren Ross
Sidebar to “The UUA Meets Black Power” by Warren Ross
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|The Commission on Appraisal report on the empowerment controversy refers
to the motion adopted by the 1971 General Assembly establishing a Racial
Justice Fund as “the Ross resolution.” The Ross in question is the same
one whose byline appears on this article, and it would be cowardly to hide
behind authorial objectivity and not to tell that story from my personal
point of view.
I arrived in Washington for General Assembly as the newly elected UUA board member from the New York Metropolitan District, knowing that the previous GA had rejected BAC funding but that another floor fight about the issue was getting ready to erupt. Whichever way the vote went, I thought, it could destroy the denomination. If funding was voted, it could bankrupt us. If the motion failed a second time, not only black members but also disenchanted white ones might pull out in large numbers.
Acting on my own initiative and not at the behest of the UUA board or anyone else, as some people have suggested, I asked the moderator for permission to speak from the neutral mike, since I wasn’t calling for a vote either for or against BAC funding but for an alternative method of raising funds. I was proposing an attempt at healing, offering a choice I thought more constructive than a simple yes or no. Also, I was damned naïve. The BAC and FULLBAC people saw my proposal as a hostile act. Even more disconcerting, the BAWA people saw me as their ally.
And yet. . . . when immediately following the adoption of the resolution I went to BAC headquarters to tell them I hoped they would accept funding from the Racial Justice Fund (as, indeed, they eventually did), I was met with hostility by some whites in that room but not by any blacks. Indeed, overcome by the emotion of the moment, one of the African American BAC leaders and I wound up in a cathartic hug.
The memory of that embrace, which I took to be an act of reconciliation, has become one of the more nourishing parts of what someone once called “the compost of who I am.”
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