Chris Martens

Good morning, everyone. Last week, Reverend Hollister spoke about community care, asking us to take seriously our responsibilities to care for others in our communities. I want to share with you a little bit about my experience with how the Living the Pledge to End Racism workshop empowered me to be a more caring member of this community.

As a millennial, resident of the internet, and professor, I have a lot of self-concept invested in knowing things, and I thought I knew a lot about racism before I attended the workshop. However, what I eventually realized is that there’s a big difference between being able to write an essay analyzing the colonialist themes of Disney’s Pocahontas, and actually being able to meaningfully act to combat racism in my day-to-day life. It was cathartic to rant online, to retweet the latest outrage, but horrible things still kept happening: white supremacist terror attacks on black churches and mosques, state-perpetrated concentration camps for the immigrants who are too brown, and police brutality emerging as a leading cause of death among African-American men, to say nothing against the day-to-day injustices in the workplace and in passing social interactions that echo these deeper wounds.

The only way we can fight these horrors is to put ourselves in uncomfortable situations that mirror them and practice the actions our ideal selves would make. This workshop will do that. The Living the Pledge Workshop provided a safe but challenging space where I could start to outgrow my fear of getting things wrong, start to face real, flesh-and-blood people, and say the words I needed to say to push back against hateful beliefs. Living the Pledge taught me that frozen silence is worse than speaking up, messing up sometimes, correcting my mistakes, and trying again. It taught me how to be comfortable with discomfort.

One of my favorite parts of the workshop was the small group discussions, in which 5 or 6 attendees got together in a room with one facilitator and discussed specific topics or questions. As one of the few under-40’s in the crowd, it was incredibly eye-opening to hear from so many of my fellow UUs about their direct experience with segregation laws and growing up in the south during the civil rights era. On the flip side, I got to share my experiences as a younger person who grew up surrounded by racial diversity in a Texas city and so was largely ignorant of racism’s continued effect on our country until I was much older. The workshop functions at its most successful when we share insights across generations and connect with each other by sharing personal, emotionally-charged stories.

Sign up with someone you trust, someone who can help you with the rage, heartbreak, and grief that you will feel when you recognize what a pervasive culture of white supremacy has taken from us; yes, even from white people. Sign up with the commitment to do the homework and dedicate two full weekend days to the process. But please, sign up. If we’re going to make the future better, if your kids and grand kids are going to see that future, we all need to do the work.

For more information about the September or October workshop sessions, look for Lee Tate and Jerri Meisner in the lobby after the service. Thank you.