March/April 2000
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RACISM / by Tom Stites
Antiracism Timeline
Two Decades of Grappling with Racism

1980 At the urging of UUA President the Rev. O. Eugene Pickett and the Urban Church Coalition, consultants conduct a racism audit of the Unitarian Universalist Association that makes 32 recommendations for addressing racism internally.

1980 The Rev. Mark D. Morrison-Reed's groundbreaking book, Black Pioneers in a White Denomination, opens eyes about the history of racial injustice in the denomination.

1981 The UUA Board of Trustees resolves "to eliminate racism in all its institutional structures, policies, practices, and patterns of behavior, so that it will become a racially equitable institution and can make an effective contribution toward achieving a similarly equitable society." For the first time, it institutes an affirmative action policy.

1982 The UUA launches the Whitney Young Jr. Urban Ministry Fund to aid struggling urban congregations, develop leaders for urban ministry, provide funds for ethnically and racially diverse new congregations, and promote cooperation among urban and suburban congregations.

1983 The elected Commission on Appraisal publishes its study Empowerment: One Denomination's Quest for Racial Justice, 1967-1982.

1985 The General Assembly votes to recommend that the UUA establish a Black Concerns Working Group to help congregations learn about racism and fight it.

1986 The Black Concerns Working Group is established with an initial budget of $5,000.

1986 The first UUA seminar on racism, the forerunner of today's Jubilee World workshops, is conducted in Columbia, SC.

1987 The number of people of color among UU ministers reaches 15, up from 8 in 1968.

1987 The Rev. Melvin A. Hoover, now director of the UUA's Faith in Action Department, joins the association as director of urban and international ministries with primary focus on combating racism.

1988 African American UU Ministers is established as an independent affiliate of the UUA. The association launches efforts to recruit more ministers of color.

1989 Morrison-Reed's curriculum How Open the Door is published to help congregations explore the past and current role of African Americans in UU churches.

1992 At General Assembly, UUA President the Rev. William F. Schulz calls for the denomination to increase its racial and cultural diversity, and delegates approve a resolution calling for the same thing. In response, the UUA board appoints a Racial and Cultural Diversity Task Force.

1992 The UU Network for Indigenous Affairs is formed to encourage UUs to learn about the values and spiritual perspectives of native peoples.

1992 The UUA hires Crossroads Ministries, an interfaith group, to help it develop and conduct antiracism trainings.

1993 More than 50 UU leaders meet in St. Louis and reach consensus that integration and efforts to diversify have not ended racism and that the UUA should focus on antiracism. The group embraces the concept of white privilege.

1993 The General Assembly includes a daylong program, Racial Justice: For Such a Time as This. Delegates approve a resolution calling UUs to support local indigenous peoples and for the association to provide programs and curricula and to review investment policies in light of indigenous peoples' concerns.

1994 African Americans and their supporters at General Assembly in Charlotte, NC, protest plans for a Colonial-era costume ball, asking whether African Americans should come dressed as slaves and fueling interest in antiracism efforts.

1995 The Latino/a Unitarian Universalist Networking Association (LUUNA) is formed.

1996 The Racial and Cultural Diversity Task Force report Journey toward Wholeness is presented to General Assembly, which votes to urge that "UU congregations, districts, organizations and professional and lay leaders participate in a reflection/action process throughout the 1996-97 church year" leading to a new resolution the following year.

1996 To help link all its antioppression efforts, the UUA combines its Department for Social Justice and the Offices for Racial and Cultural Diversity and Diversity Resources into the Department for Faith in Action.

The UUA board votes that the association "will work to ensure initial settlements or appointments for ministers of color," and money is set aside for this purpose.

1997 The General Assembly approves a resolution entitled Toward an Anti-Racist Unitarian Universalist Association, requiring the UUA board to "establish a committee to monitor and assess our transformation as an antiracist, multicultural institution"; the board establishes the Journey Toward Wholeness Transformation Committee, consisting of laypeople and ministers with UUA staff liaisons. The UUA's antiracism program adopts the name Journey toward Wholeness (JTW).

1997 Diverse and Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM) is formed as a community for UU religious professionals of color.

1998 Fifty UU leaders meet in Columbus, OH, to shape plans for persuading congregations to take part in antiracism workshops.

1999 At a continental meeting in Kansas City, JTW leaders enlist the support of major UU groups in developing antiracism plans for the groups' members.

1999 After years of relying on the interfaith Crossroads Ministries to lead antiracism analysis trainings for UU leaders, the Faith in Action Department launches a new version of the training incorporating UU theology and history and led by UUA trainers.

1999 The Presidential Commission on Race recognizes JTW as one of the nation's 100 best racial justice efforts.

2000 Persons of color among UU ministers now number 45, though growth lags in the number serving parishes. The diverse group includes not only African Americans but also Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans.

-- Tom Stites

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