Widening the Circle: The Commission on Institutional Change

Before this year, I had never heard of Dr. Brené  Brown, who has apparently enjoyed TED talk and author fame for a decade or two.

Before this year, I had never heard of Dr. Ibram Kendi, now famous author of a number of books about anti-racism.

In the last month, I have twice heard parts of a conversation where they talked together.  Here is the key analogy:

As Americans, we are born into a culture in which racist ideas are deeply embedded. We cannot escape them. Even if we reject some racist ideas, there are so many, and they are so ingrained in the culture that we cannot escape them all – as Dr. Kendi points out, even black people internalize some of them. We are all drenched in a rain of racist ideas, yet we don’t even realize that we are wet. When someone offers us an umbrella, we refuse it because we are not wet.

The Commission on Institutional Change (COIC) report is like that umbrella. It is a deeply researched assessment of our Unitarian Universalist community and some of its failings, and if we can accept it, it may help us to understand that we are indeed wet, and we do indeed need that umbrella.

That said, this report is LONG! So, what’s a busy person to do?

I recommend listening to the Q&A intro at the beginning of General Session 3 of the 2020 UUA General Assembly. That’s about 17 minutes, less if you skip the preamble, and it’s freely available online.

If you have a little more time, listen to the whole of Session 3 (1 hour); or to those segments that particularly interest you, the report is divided into ten topics. Our own Social and Environmental Justice Committee is taking on the task of digesting these in small bites to figure out how they apply to UUFP. They could use your help.

The bottom line for me is that this is an issue of hospitality, and widening the circle of belonging so that more people can live their values – our values. The specifics of next steps aren’t as important as making sure there are next steps. What can I do; what can you do; what can we do together to begin the process of drying off?

Resources: COIC website; Report (html)



Lin Chambers presented this report as a part of the online service at the UUFP on August 30, 2020.