1. “Why do we need a multicultural outreach and religious education director? What will this person do? How will they interact with the church and how will we know if/when they are successful?”

 I would describe it as us having the unique opportunity to have an RE Director, which we clearly need, to also be more explicitly responsible for outreach. Historically, the RE Director was always involved in outreach but it was part time and impossible task often. .  

 Historically we drew a larger proportion of people to this church who live on the Peninsula.  That is less true today probably in part because the population of the hill has grown more multicultural, Asian in particular, and we have literally very few of the Asian demographic in our church community.  We never want to get into looking around and counting people of color, but it is hard to not look around and see that we are surprisingly white, not to mention older.  So a little of this is a simple desire to make ourselves attractive to the people geographically closer to us.  However, the answer as to why a person hand selected to reach out to the demographics we don’t’ attract and or hold is deeper, our values call us to do it.  We simply cannot sing hymns and preach sermons about togetherness, and critique the racism of the right wing, and not be willing to adapt our culture, to be more representative of the world that actually exists.  

Unitarian Universalism and Pacific Unitarian right with it, for all our  Kumba-yah everyone’s equal, is among the least demographically diverse church movements in the country and that should haunt us.  It haunts me.  In the way that the 90’s and 2000’s were a time for us to get right and stand up for marriage equality and LGBTQ rights, this is the time to work to get right on Race.  We have been blessed with a grant, that one could argue pays us to do that outreach and in-reach to start fulfilling our call around race. 

Although the MOED’s role is fairly open, they will be the leader of Sunday School, and half the time working on undefined programs both in-house here at Pacific Unitarian and out in the community to make us internally more open to change, more open to seeing the bias that exists in society and quietly here at Pacific Unitarian, and they will also work to attract a more diverse audience to come to Pacific Unitarian.   — Steve Wilson

2. “Why do we need to focus on antiracism and multiculturalism? Aren’t we already welcoming and open to everyone?”  

YES !  I think we are !  As a church member who has served on the Welcome Table on Sunday mornings for years…I know we try to be welcoming to everyone who shows up.  But there is something happening that we are not fully conscious of.  Our membership doesn’t reflect the demographics of our community.

Did you know that 29 % of the population of Rancho Palos Verdes is Asian ?  That 38 % of the population of Torrance is Asian ?  That’s higher than the percentage of Whites ~ which is 34 %.  Yet Pacific Unitarian’s population is overwhelmingly White.  We are reflecting the segregated bubbles we live in, socialize with, relate to.

To keep our church growing we need to figure out how to attract the increasingly diverse community around us.  And that starts with understanding ourselves better.  — Lee Ann

3. “What have you learned that makes you committed to creating change at Pacific Unitarian? What will our church look like after we change?” 

I’ve learned that we have been internalizing bias since birth, in ways insidious and invisible to us as white people in a culture built for us. With effort, we can become more aware. As we learn to see that bias and break its spell, it will transform who we are as a congregation and how it feels to be in our presence. That bias, that spell, tells us we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by staying in our bubble, and that no one gets hurt by doing so. That just isn’t true. 

We can’t know how our church might LOOK in the future, but our developing awareness and sensitivity will make it more likely that those who are drawn to us will come and stay.  — Andrea Matson-deKay

4. “Pacific Unitarian has historically been on the side of the oppressed and supported liberal causes. Why isn’t that enough?” 

Pacific Unitarian has historically taken a passive not active role in supporting those who are oppressed and need help.  This is not sufficient to change the world as we see if should be changed.

Pacific Unitarian’s efforts that we have mounted have been ad hoc “one offs” led by an individual or two, and not incorporated into our mission or vision or permanent activities.    

We aren’t attracting multicultural folks with what we do now even though we’ve talked about the need to do more for over a decade.  

Since multiculturalism is a major focus for the UUA, Pacific Unitarian should take advantage of the resources available from them and make this a central part of our mission

–Gary Hart

5. “Isn’t classism, sexism and heterosexism just as important as race? Why are we focusing so much on that?”   

Traditional sexism definitions:

1.attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of gender roles. 2. discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex or gender, as in restricted job opportunities, especially such discrimination directed against women. 3. ingrained and institutionalized prejudice against women. 4. hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women; misogyny.

Definition of heterosexism:

      Discrimination or prejudice against non-heterosexual people based on the belief that heterosexuality is the only normal and natural expression of sexuality. 

Definition of classism:

A belief that a person’s social or economic station in society determines their value in that society; behavior that reflects this belief: prejudice or discrimination based on class.

Be aware that terminology and definitions with respect to all of these “isms” are changing though confusing in some; particularly in gender categorization. Nevertheless, try to make an effort of being aware of some of these changes.

In some of the entities above, there has been much pain and suffering comprised by resulting conditions including death of the victim(s). And it continues. There is much work to be done vis-à-vis UU principles.

In answering this cogent fifth question, there probably has been an emphasis on racism paralleling our having been described as being in a current era racial reckoning; race may be perceived as a relatively isolated entity by some. However, sexism, heterosexism, and classism are all associated with race and a discussion of these subjects are inseparable and warranted.

— Ben Cowen

Of course, all oppressions are interconnected– and as UUs we are called  to address them all. Historically, our society has addressed aspects of sexism and heterosexism– and UUs have been at the forefront on issues such as equal marriage and women’s rights, especially as clerical leaders. But we as a religious community have just begun to address racism, and this particular “ism” has come to the fore in society at large over the last few years. It is increasingly evident that unless we face systemic racism head on, we will never be able to eliminate the injustice in society– and this includes LGBT people of color and women of color in particular.

–Vivien Hao

6. “Why aren’t we joining an antiracism group like “Black Lives Matter” or partnering with Toberman House or some other community organization instead of just focusing on ourselves?”  

Pacific Unitarian has volunteered with Toberman.  I’ve gone with RE and helped pass out Christmas presents for several years.  Greg and others have purchased backpacks and Pacific Unitarian congregants pay for one to give to a child in need.  But this is charity.  It is not a partnership where our congregants are meeting with these kids and doing activities with them once a week, for example.  We don’t go into the prisons and run classes for those POC who are in jail for smoking a joint while, we all know so many “white” kids and rich kids get off with a slap and not a life sentence.  How many of the kids that go through Toberman, for example, are fatherless because of the slant that incarcerates more POC men than white men for the same crime?  

In a real partnerships, two parties have a reciprocity and a sharing of skills, cultures, or needs.  A relationship  that allows us to sincerely ask others what they need and not just throw money at them.  Although that is generous and often needed and accepted, it is far more beneficial to develop real relationships with other non-profits so that we are truly not “othering” whole groups of people.  One of the biggest reasons for dwindling populations in congregations is the result of unintentional ‘othering’ of whole groups of people. At Pacific Unitarian, we must look inwardly to see how we are unconsciously and unintentionally othering people, so that we can BE inclusive, not just aspire to Diversity. 

— Kimberly Pratto Storr

7. “I don’t like the language you use, such as white supremacy or blaming innocent people for the mistakes of the past. Why can’t we just not see color and all get along as human beings?”  

Language definitely matters. We all know how words can help heal, wound, and even define our reality. I want to clarify the difference between the terms “white supremacist” and “white supremacy culture.” It’s pretty clear that from the beginning, American culture has been white-centric, white-dominant–look at the constitution, manifest destiny, media portrayals, the prison systems, housing and lending practices. It’s a culture where the values, success, and privilege of whites have reigned supreme. A WHITE SUPREMACIST works actively to maintain that cruel power imbalance–often through social and political affiliation and action. I do not think anyone here is a White Supremacist. However, we are ALL affected by White Supremacy culture. Did we get that loan? Or not? Get followed by store security while shopping? Or not? Have others assumed the best or worst from us? If we are benefitting from White Supremacy Culture, we may not notice–but we will surely notice if we are oppressed by it. We cannot pretend to not see color. It’s there and it matters. To think it doesn’t is just one sign of the privilege of whiteness. Just getting along in this structure might feel comfortable to some of us, but that’s also a luxury of privilege. To work for justice often means we need to stop just getting along so we can dismantle what is unjust and build something better. White supremacy culture is the term used to describe what needs to be broken down. It’s ugly and also accurate. It takes courage to use the term, and I think we are brave enough. We can learn to use the words that are accurate and that matter now.

–Melissa Tyrrell

8. “I am more concerned about catastrophic climate change and pollution in our own backyard. Aren’t environmental issues just as important as racism?”  VIVIEN

Environmental issues should be rightly on the forefront of causes we pay attention to. But have you considered who is most adversely and immediately harmed by pollution and climate change? It’s invariably Black, indigenous and people of color– in our own backyard and around the world. To care only about the animals and trees, but not the people whose lives are already affected and will be catastrophically affected before we, in our middle class, white suburbs are even just inconvenienced, is foolhardy. By viewing the world with an antiracist lens, we are automatically talking about environmental issues– and crime and housing and eudcation and workplace discrimination– all issues that are of profound and high importance to progressive folks like you and me.

Antiracism is not “just another issue.” It is not our social justice issue of the month and then we can move onto the next one. It is the lens through which we must view the world if we are to really make systemic changes in a society that was founded and built and made rich and powerful on the backs of Black, indigenous and people of color. Antiracism is at the root of every single social problem we have and it is only in directly addressing antiracism that we can get to that root and dig it out once and for all. Until then, our society as a whole cannot grow and flourish as it should and can.  –Vivien Hao

9. “I come to church to get away from the problems of the world. I don’t want to hear about how white people are harming black people Sunday after Sunday. Why are you focusing on this?”  

When we sign up to be a UU, we sign up to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. That’s what UUism is about– creating community while healing the world. We cannot stay up in our ivory tower and ignore what so many of our brothers and sisters of color are experiencing– the hate, the inequity, the killing. So while we are living our lives, seeking our truths and strengthening our mutual bonds, we have a UU imperative to look outside of our circle– to widen the circle of concern.

This analogy helps me: Racism in the US is like a house with a faulty foundation that we’ve inherited. We didn’t okay the plans, we didn’t build it, but it’s dangerous for all of us to leave it as is. Two examples are the fallout resulting from predatory lending practices targeting people of color, and environmental threats left unaddressed in neighborhoods considered expendable.  The work of repairing that foundation is the work of educating ourselves to see its condition realistically so we can make repairs. It can be empowering and joyful to see clearly and know we’re working to create change.

–Andrea Matson-deKay

10. “I serve on a committee at church that runs itself. Will we have to contend with someone from the outside coming in to tell us how to run things and change our practices or policies?”  

  • Official committees at Pacific Unitarian have charters and are approved to work within the context of the charter with the limitation of the budget that has been defined by the Pacific Unitarian Board and approved by the Pacific Unitarian congregation.  That will not change.
  • Changes to a committee charter usually come from within that committee, brought to the board for approval, and to the congregation if required.
  • The practices and policies of Pacific Unitarian may change, as they have over the years.  But any change will be approved by the Board and presented for approval by the congregation at a Congregational Meeting or Town Hall.  
  • So, no outside entity will tell you what to do.  Changes come from within, after long and careful discussions and approvals.
  • The workings of any committee will not be changed from any outside force, rather from the natural evolution of a committee wanting to work in concert with Pacific Unitarian’s current Mission and Vision and your charter.

–Gary Hart