The Elephant Effect, or what does “White Supremacy” have to do with us?

Come to our ‘Teach-In’ on May 7
You’ve often heard of the elephant in that room…defined by Wikipedia as a metaphorical idiom for an obvious problem or risk that no one wants to discuss, or an aspect of group-think that no one wants to challenge.
You’ve also probably heard about the butterfly effect…the proposition that when a butterfly flutters its wings, it is felt/sensed around that world…that each small action/movement has meaning and effect.
It follows then, at least in my mind, that there is also such a thing as an Elephant Effect…which says that when an elephant is finally named and even exposed, the effect reverberates across the land. The elephant I’m referring to is this: fueled by controversy over the hiring of yet another white male in a position of leadership within the Unitarian Universalist Association in the US, the elephant of white supremacy is being loudly named and boldly unveiled. BlackLivesUU and UU persons of colour, supported by LREDA¹ and DRUMM² , are calling for all congregations to do a ‘Teach-In’ on an upcoming Sunday to have a hard and frank conversation about racism.
And the Elephant Effect means that we surely feel the effects and repercussions here, and hence a conversation has arisen within the Canadian Unitarian Council. To what extent is this also ‘our’ problem, our ‘elephant’? What language, or context, would be palpable for those within our congregations in Canada? And is that even really a fair question? (And, why is ‘palpable’ even a consideration?) What language or format would have the desired affect?…that is, to wake us up to the colonialist, settler, privileged, white-preferring systems that dominate our culture.
The elephant is huge. None of us can understand it in its entirety. As in the parable of the blind men and the elephant, none of us have the whole picture. There is no way that one teach-in on one Sunday will fix what is an historically deep and culturally embedded system of white privilege. But we also cannot ignore the question or be overcome by the size of it.
And so, on Sunday, May 7, at 10am, here at the Unitarian Fellowship of Peterborough, we are holding a ‘teach in.’ In the language of the 1960’s, a teach-in is a time to upset the status quo with the goal of increasing awareness about controversial issues and encouraging people to act on them. A teach-in abandons ‘business as usual’ in the interest of educational empowerment.
At the time of this writing, I do not know what our UFP teach-in will look like, but I do know that being here together that day will indicate our willingness to be uncomfortable in the interest of undoing white privilege and furthering the cause of justice. Being here together, we will all bear witness to one another and our commitment to our principles, however difficult the path.
Your ideas for and participation in this teach-in are most welcome. And, your presence is of utmost importance.
~ Rev. Julie
April 14, 2017

¹Liberal Religious Educators Association
²Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries