Monday, February 22, 2010
Olbermann and the UUA
Looking up the numbers, I find I made a mistake in my comments to my last post, Maybe Keith Olbermann has a point I said that the Tea Party movement was 5% whiter than the population as a whole; I was remembering old numbers (something I find happening more often these days- I must keep reminding myself I've been out of school for 30 years)- the country is 65.6% white, not 75%
That being the case, I must reassess the question Keith Olbermann asked: "Ask yourself: Where are the black faces? Who am I marching with? What are we afraid of? And if it really is only a president's policy and not his skin. Ask yourself one final question: Why are you surrounded by the largest crowd you'll ever again see in your life that consists of nothing but people who look exactly like you?"
Leaving aside for the moment that I've only been a spectator to, not a participant in any Tea Party rallies, I had to ask myself if the premise of the question is correct: is it the whitest crowd I'd ever be surrounded by? Not according to the article Can Unitarian Universalism change? in the UUWorld. The UUA is much whiter than the Tea Party movement, 89% vs. 80%, with 95.7 percent of active ministers being white; has half the number of African Americans, 1% vs. 2%; and far fewer Latino/Latina, 3% vs. 10%. (and yes, I know that your congregation is different)
This is an old argument, with liberals saying the numbers tell all, and conservatives saying sometimes you have to ask why the numbers skew the way they do. I’ve always presumed the two biggest reasons why UU tended to be so white were first, the reputation UU has for secular humanism; African Americans consistently poll much more devout than whites- they prefer having God in their churches, and second, the reserved, Apollonian, New England style of most UU congregations; many blacks and southern whites prefer a more Dionysian, “make a joyful noise” style of worship. Combine that with the BAC walkout in ‘69 and our demographics were inevitable. But if you agree with Keith Olbermann that numbers tell all, then to be intellectually consistent, you’d have to rate the UUA as the most racist organization in America not listed by the government as a hate group.
To me, part of assuming the inherent dignity and worth of all people is to make an effort to understand why people hold the views they do. To not presume evil intent unless it is demonstrated. I do not assume that all big government fans are budding Stalinists, nor that their opponents are budding Hitlers. When I know that Paleoconservatives and Libertarians have been bashing Bush for years for spending money like a drunken cliché, loudly protesting his deficits and bailouts, I am not surprised when they protest President Obama’s, too. If the protests are bigger now, well, so are the deficits and bailouts- you don’t have to be a racist to be afraid of the numbers.
I’ve written before about the need to take a breath, relax, and examine the arguments before leaping to conclusions and insulting people, posts such as How can you respect silly beliefs? and How theists and atheists can share UU and no doubt I’ll do so again. And sometimes I fail. But we have to try- not merely because it will make more light and less heat; but because, damn it, it’s the right thing to do.