The 8th Principle and Next Steps for Albany UU’s Inclusivity Team
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.” – 8th Principle of Unitarian Universalism

By now, many of you are aware that Albany UU has an active Inclusivity Team. You may have noticed the Team’s written response to George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent protests. You may also have noticed the Inclusivity Recommends section of the Windows Weekly newsletter, in which we make suggestions about books, articles, movies, and podcasts that are intended to educate and inspire the congregation regarding issues of diversity and equity. Our most recent activity has been organizing discussion groups for the leadership committees within our congregation for book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. We hope to offer more groups to the wider congregation in the future as well. So, this seems like an opportune time to remind you, our friends and fellow congregants, of the purpose of the Inclusivity Team and what our next steps will be.

In 2016, the Board of Trustees approved the formation of the Inclusivity Team whose main purpose is the elimination of structural and individual barriers to full inclusion and participation in congregational life. These barriers include, but are not limited to: racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, sexism, and discrimination based on social class and physical abilities. To that end, the Inclusivity Team will be guided in part in its effort to end inequity and exclusion in our congregation by following the recommendations of the report of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change, Widening the Circle of Concern , June 2020. Read the full report and learn more at https://www.uua.org/midamerica/news/blog/report-uua-commission-institutional-change.
 
The Inclusivity Team is made up of members and friends of the congregation who have volunteered their time and energy to do this work. Anyone who wishes to participate may do so. To join please contact the current team chair, Lee Newberg: i nclusivity@albanyuu.org.
 
In order to proceed with our work, we have found it necessary to have working definitions of certain terms, the better that we can ensure that we understand one another. The Team believes that it would be helpful for the congregation to understand us when we use certain terms. The following is a list of definitions culled from many sources too numerous to list here:
 
  • Bias: To harbor or express a preference for or against a particular social group as compared to another group, usually in a way that is considered unfair.
  • Discrimination: An action that makes a distinction in favor or against an individual based on a known or perceived identity of that person. (Adapted from Ibram Kendi’s explanation). Examples include: exclusion, ignoring, threats, ridicule, slander, and violence.
  • Diversity: The personal identities we bring to Albany UU, including but not limited to: age, ethnicity, race, physical ability, immigration status, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, intellectual differences, and national origin. Research has repeatedly shown that more diversity, at all levels including leadership, makes all types of organizations more successful.
  • Equity: Ensuring that all people have the resources they need, knowing that not all people stand on the same footing, and ensuring that everyone may participate in every aspect of congregational life, regardless of background.
  • Inclusivity: Institutional practices that recognize and value the diversity within our congregation, our Unitarian Universalist denomination, and that treat all members with dignity and respect, such that each member of the congregation feels like we truly belong.
  • Microaggression: The everyday, subtle, intentional — and oftentimes unintentional — interactions or behaviors that communicate bias towards an individual in a marginalized group. The persistence of these behaviors amounts to abuse, which causes distress, anger, depression, anxiety, pain, and fatigue for the recipient. The person committing the microaggresssion may or may not be aware of their racial bias and vastly underestimate the damage these interactions have on people of color and marginalized communities.
  • Prejudice: The pre-judgement of another person based on a group identity. Prejudice consists of thoughts and feelings, including stereotypes, attitudes, and generalizations that are based on little or no experience and are then projected onto everyone from that group. Please note that all humans have prejudice.
  • Privilege: When a certain group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. There are two types of privilege: unearned advantage in which things that should be granted to everyone are given to only some groups; and conferred dominance in which members of certain groups are bestowed control, granted authority, or awarded power or domination. Privilege is systemic in that media, laws, education, and other systems reinforce it.
  • Racialize: To categorize an individual based on their perceived race.
  • Racism: A collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between racialized groups and are substantiated by racist ideas about racialized groups (Adapted from Ibram Kendi’s definitions of intersectional racism).
  • White Centering: According to Ijeoma Oluo, “white centering is when the feelings of white people, the expectations of white people, and the needs of white people overtake those of people of color in important discussions.”
  • White Supremacy: The overarching political, economic, and social systems of domination which benefit whites to the detriment of other races.
 
In addition to the 8th Principle, a few of the initiatives that the Inclusivity Team is currently working on include:

  • Ensuring that Albany UU is recertified as a Welcoming Congregation for our LGBTQ members and friends. There are certain tasks that must be completed, documented, and submitted to the UUA in order to make that happen.
  • Completing the first round of the White Fragility discussion groups and to evaluate whether or not there is interest in a second round of groups. This endeavor is important not just for the diversity efforts of Albany UU, but for the entire Capital Region. We have an energetic, resourceful, and intelligent congregation. If we set our minds to it, we can do a lot of good anti-racism work in the community.
  • The initiative to engage the congregation in a conversation regarding the adoption of the 8th Principle of Unitarian Universalism. The 8th Principle reads as follows:
 
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”

In the coming weeks, the Inclusivity Team will provide the congregation with details regarding the plans for engaging all members and friends in a conversation about adopting this principle for Albany UU. We will provide background information and the rationale for the creation of this principle. More information on the 8th Principle is available on the UUA website at https:// www.uua.org/midamerica/news/blog/my-experience-8th-principle .

Please direct your questions and comments to Lee Newberg. He will make sure that the rest of the team will get them and respond.


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