Reno White LivesAs Unitarian Universalists we promote the importance of engaging in dialogues about structural racism in our communities. On Wednesday, August 26th we installed a banner on our campus that reads “Black Lives Matter”.  This banner and a recent worship services have encouraged dialogue and engagement on the issues of racial justice. Some have suggested that the sign should have read “All Lives Matter” and that the sign is divisive.  As a congregation and as Unitarian Universalists we affirm and promote the worth and dignity of every person, a modern articulation of our Universalist forebears theology of universal salvation.

By proclaiming Black Lives Matter we are not saying that other lives don’t matter. When we march in the Gay Pride parade and provide free wedding services to same gender loving couples we are declaring that Transgender, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Gay lives matter. When we witness to the importance women’s health and choice in their reproductive decisions we are declaring that women’s lives matter. When we talk about and engage in the disability rights movement we are saying that people with disabilities lives matter. When we teach our children, youth and adults comprehensive medically accurate values based human sexuality education and encourage our schools to do the same we are declaring that our children’s lives matter.  When we pray for the families and friends of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty we are declaring that law enforcement lives matter. When we work with each other to live lives of meaning and purpose we are declaring that our lives matter.

The vandalism of our banner on Friday, August 28th, and its thefts on the evening of September 12th and October 31st are confirmations for this religious community that our work for racial justice must continue.  

The vandalism was a visible and physical act of white supremacy literally erasing the word black and replacing it with white.  The legacy of white supremacy, still at work today in this nations political, economic, justice, and societal systems, has impacted Black lives in so many ways, to many to enumerate in this op-ed.

White supremacy, which can be unconsciously and consciously reinforced by people of any race, by internalizing the idea that those who are considered as white are superior, continues to be an insidious reality. White people, like me, have a difficult time understanding these many impacts, as we have no experience of them.

Let us listen and believe people when they tell us of their experience.  Let us understand more deeply the systemic reasons for racial injustice in the United States, for racial injustice denigrates all our humanity.  Black Lives Matter is not divisive, the legacy of white supremacy and structural racism is.

We, as a people of faith, will continue to affirm and promote the worth and dignity of every person and we will continue to state that #blacklivesmatter in the face of white supremacy as an act of resistance and love.

Rev. Neal T. Anderson, Senior Minister
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada