One more time, for those in the back….

In the 6 weeks since speaking my truth in “On being a good fit” I have largely kept out of public commentary regarding the hiring decision that precipitated my speaking out. Instead I have put my time and talents into collaborating with religious educators in birthing the #UUWhiteSupremacyTeachIn. I have a deep debt of gratitude to Aisha Hauser, Kenny Wiley, and the group of dedicated religious educators for journeying that path with me, giving focus to my faith. Also, profound love for close circles of friends, colleagues and family who have kept me grounded, you know who you are.

The exceptions to my non-reply have been when my personal and professional integrity was being called into question in public. I have now received hundreds of hate messages which have been private and I have largely ignored those. However, I will NOT allow anyone to question my integrity, in a public space, without reply. Peter Morales, former President of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), did so yesterday in his Facebook post (or PM 5-7-2017 if you are not on Facebook.) It is not lost on any of us that he chose to do so on the second day of the #UUWhiteSupremacyTeachIn, an effort which clearly resonates with thousands of UU’s and of which Peter feels “ashamed.”

The first, as Peter puts it, is “The narrative that triggered all this…is false. The narrative that she was not hired because she is Latina.”

I have never claimed to be an “eminently qualified Latina.” Indeed, the ethnic culture that Peter and I share generally leads us to downplay our qualifications and accomplishments in favor of humility and waiting to be recognized by elders as ready for leadership. It has been something I have had to try to unlearn as I navigate the white supremacy in our UU culture since stating one’s accomplishments is almost mandatory when first visiting a UU community. How many of us have sat in UU spaces where the “leader” was introduced by a long recitation of their degrees and accomplishments? Or being asked where we went to school as an opening question when we have the ‘visitors’ badge on?

What I have said is that I was told (and believe) I was qualified for this position to lead the Southern Region congregational life staff…period, full stop. When was the last time the UUA, under Peter’s leadership, mobilized over 600 congregations/communities and thousands of UU’s into a single racial justice effort such as the wildly successful #UUWhiteSupremacyTeachIn? That is what I did when faced with injustice…galvanized pain and anger and, along with Aisha and Kenny, transformed it into something that is helping move Unitarian Universalism towards our mutual liberation. I said my truth and then got to work. That is leadership and qualification in action.

I also have never said that I was not hired because I am Latina. I have asserted that being Latina, a woman and a religious educator rendered me “not the right fit” for UUA upper level management. It is the difference between the old and new Jim Crow…but the results are the same, an overwhelming white centering of power in the UUA.

It is extraordinarily telling that this “false narrative” is what the former-President has heard from the conversation. What People of Color (POC) leaders have been saying quite clearly is that this is just one of a long line of hiring (and firing) patterns that have shown that being POC renders us “not the right fit” for UUA upper-level management. It is impossible to overlook the fact of who are in positions of power within the UUA and not surmise that being white makes a person a better fit. Each and every hire could make sense according to those “qualifications” without any thought or examination of how those qualifications contribute to a pattern of white supremacy. ONE MORE TIME FOR THOSE IN THE BACKin talking about this specific hire we are talking about patterns of white supremacy in the UUA. “The narrative of the event which triggered all of this” has been 400 years in the making and more specifically for UU’s has been decades, not simply the events of March 2017. That Peter cannot, or will not, see this says everything about the differences in our qualifications to lead.

The second point, as Peter puts it, is “the Beloved Community does not throw people under the bus. The Beloved Community does not practice human sacrifice.” I agree that this is our highest aspiration but let me be clear…this has not been our practice. The UU road to today is littered with dozens of UU religious professionals and lay leaders of color who have been thrown under that bus. Some of us have had it backed up over us after being run down in the first place. But somehow, now, as we are calling on the entire UU community to come together to examine that bus….now we should be concerned because it is also effecting white male ministers? These same ministers whose white male privilege gives them retirement, severance, exit and fall back packages? Nowhere is this more apparent than in the different levels of care that those ministers have received from the resources of the UUA versus what my family has seen in the past 6 weeks. The effort to care for and comfort those ministers and their families both materially and pastorally has not at all been my family’s experience.  And while the UUA is not the Beloved Community, it is one the most visible expressions of it.

Let’s be real here folks, I knew I was taking a risk and that my truth telling would not be without consequences. But here is where I draw the line. I will not allow my “narrative” to be used against the very faith I serve and love with all my heart. I will not allow my name to be linked to a “false narrative.” I will not allow my name to be associated with someone’s idea of an “inquisition.”

Peter, you may NOT use my name to justify your shame in what Unitarian Universalists are now doing “in the name of justice.” Whatever shame you bear is on you, not on those of us who have stayed at the table to fight for our faith. My name comes from a long line of proud, resilient, fierce and loving mexicanas y puertorriqueñas. Soy la hija de Dolores, la nieta de Socorro y Guadalupe y la bisnieta de Bartola. They are with me and all of us as we do the hard work before us with faith, grace and love.

I am not your servant…but I remain

YoUUrs in service,

Christina Signature

Christina Rivera


11 thoughts on “One more time, for those in the back….

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  1. So sorry you’re going through all of this, Christina. Thanks for all the love, energy and time you put into the Teach-In and the UU community.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am not ashamed of what is being done now in UU congregations in response to this crises. I am eager to learn more. I am white, female, and glad to not have to wonder or make assumptions about myself and others.

    I am shocked that Rev. Morales wrote yesterday’s post, counteracting his earlier resignation. Also, I don’t understand why Rev. Southworth felt the need to write his letter (or why Rev. Morales defended him). Does his position have any bearing on this matter?

    Please everyone, keep the education process going. We may not always agree, but this discussion is important.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. While I grieve about all of this happening to you and others, grieve that we as a people of faith have not come any further on the journey though our opportunities have been many, grieve all the pain white supremacy and racism has caused and continues to cause, I rejoice in the work you and other leaders are now doing because what you are asking us to do makes transformation is possible. Thank you Chris!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amor y respeto! What’s going on right now is so vital to making the necessary progress and changes in UUism and I am so grateful that you have the fortitude to speak your truth. You have my support and admiration, adelante!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. First Unitarian Church of San Jose held a white supremacy teach-in yesterday and it was a good experience. Thank you for all your work to organize this event and all the other work you do. There’s no halting this movement to stop individual and institutional racism. We will stop racism anywhere it tries to appear. We will stop all attempts to negatively influence this valid and important discussion and vigilance to eradicate racism in all its forms.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Who knows why you didn’t get the job? My first thought when I heard the story: She’s not a minister. Ministers think they have management skills. My second thought: She’s a woman with a bold personality that’s not smooth, and that didn’t feel right. Third thought: It would look very insider to pick a board member for a job. Peter is part Latino, so that thought did not occur to me.
    The UUA has long been thought to have certain gatekeepers who keep out challengers to their platform. The folks who have complained about that were Caucasian men and women. Ingroups abound, even among the do-gooders.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you, Christina, for deciding to take the risk and being central to creating with others the unfolding that is now happening. So long overdue.

    Liked by 1 person

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