This past week the County Commissioners declared racism a crisis in Thurston County. You can find the story here.
This has been a year for some of us that has heightened our awareness of systemic racism, which is the ways that racism is maintained and supported by laws, organizations, policies and practices. Learning that almost 400 land covenants in the county contained restrictions based on race was a wake-up for many that systemic racism is here and now, not an abstract idea that happens elsewhere.
The sentence that stood out to me in this article was this: “Twenty-five percent of Thurston County residents are Black, Indigenous and people of color.” One in four residents of the county we live in identify as BIPOC. That led me to wonder why the message about Olympia is that there are no people of color here. What is it in the history of this area and the systems in place that make the appeared absence of BIPOC seem a reality? I notice this in my daily life; where I live and work appears mostly white. What would it take for me to notice and experience the diversity that already exists here?
For the past six weeks, Sara Lewis, Wendy Endress, and I have co-led a class about Widening the Circle, the report from the Commission on Institutional Change created by the Unitarian Universalist Association. Thank you to the members of this class for showing up and diving into the work of anti-racism. This report makes many suggestions for the UUA and UU congregations to further this work. More than anything, it helped us create a common language and increase our awareness so we can see the world through the lens of racial justice. Just as important is what happens next.
I am not certain what it means practically that the County Commission declared racism a crisis, and I will be curious to see. Awareness is the first step, action comes next. This is true for OUUC as well. My experiences this year have heightened my awareness and furthered my learning about systemic racism. Going forward I am certain that anti-racism education, advocacy and direct service will be part of my commitment to justice. What about you? And, what about our OUUC community?
Blessings on your week.