An open letter to UU youth of color and UU people of color who attended Fort Worth General Assembly and the broader UU community:
At General Assembly in Fort Worth, there were several incidents that reminded us that we have much work to do in our journey to becoming an anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and multicultural association. We, the UUA Board of Trustees, want to express deep sadness and regret that these incidents took place.
Some of these incidents involved apparently disrespectful and racist treatment of our youth by Fort Worth officials. We will respond appropriately to these incidents. When we visit a city, we expect that all members of our Unitarian Universalist community should be treated with respect and hospitality. For this and future General Assemblies, our presence might provide a “teachable moment” for us to work with our host cities on issues involving race and youth.
But we have work do within our own community as well. We have been disturbed by reports of other unfortunate incidents during General Assembly within our own Unitarian Universalist family, in which some UU youth of color were made to feel that they were not welcome. There was an incident outside the hall during the closing ceremonies at the Fort Worth General Assembly. Based on the reports of witnesses, the incident involved several UU youth of color, a UU adult who questioned their right to be there, provoking an angry response from the youth, a UU minister who intervened in support of the adult, and another white youth who defended the youth of color and verbally attacked the minister, who responded in like fashion with similar inflammatory language. This was not the only incident. We have also heard that on several occasions in Fort Worth, white UUs assumed that UU youth of color were hotel service people and asked them to carry luggage or park cars. We are troubled that some UUs may have treated other UUs as if they did not belong among us. We can and must do better.
Sadly, this was not the first General Assembly to have incidents like these. After one of those past incidents, the UUA Board of Trustees committed to provide safe space to process issues and concerns around oppression and racism and chaplains who could help facilitate reflection, discussion, and learning. However, we as a Board regret that we have not done enough to provide that safe space. We cannot control the actions of individuals, but we can create venues where we can all learn and grow as a community. We apologize for failing to provide those venues and commit to remedy this at future General Assemblies.
As your UUA Board, we pledge to treat all these incidents as a wake-up call for our entire community. We understand that personal stories about individuals’ experiences at Fort Worth General Assembly have been recorded and we commit to hear these stories and learn from them. Also, we will work with the General Assembly Planning Committee and other groups to ensure that General Assembly in St. Louis and all future General Assemblies are more welcoming to all members of our Unitarian Universalist family.