A passing conversation:
Person A: “Did you notice there’s no big speakers this year?”
Person B: “Yes, it was a conscious decision to focus more on topics of interest to congregations.”
Me: “It’s kinda boring, though.”
Person C: “Well, the UU Christian group is washing feet in their booth [in the Exhibit Hall].”
Me: “Eww! Eww! Eww!”
Person B: “Wha–” (apparently not the response he expected from me)
Me: “Can you imagine the feet they’re going to be washing by the last day of GA?”
Went to a workshop presented by “white allies,” white people who are supportive of anti-racism efforts and who are willing to work closely with people of color. Important work. Work that I fully support.
But I noticed a phenomenon that may partner Carol first pointed out to me in the world of environmental activism. Carol refers to it as “shaking a finger at you.” That involves making you, the listener, feel terrible about how you are contributing to ecological problems. Yes, we should all feel terrible about being dependent on fossil fuels and over consumption and so on, but what Carol points out is that that kind of feeling cause many people to give up on trying solve ecological problems. Much of Carol’s work has been to help people to enjoy solving ecological problems, because that way, they might actually do the work. You might call this approach “social marketing.”
This came to mind in this white allies presentation. Everything they said was true, and everything they said made me feel terrible about racism, overwhelmed by racism, shamed by racism. I’m enough of a Puritan to believe that it is wholesome for white people to feel terrible, overwhelmed, and shamed by consciousness of the sin of racism; but I’m also honest enough with myself to admit that feeling that way makes me less likely to engage in anti-racist work.
Speaking as a former salesman, we religious liberals could stand to do a little more in the way of social marketing. We might get more done.
Another visit to the Exhibit Hall, mostly to drop in and see the folks at Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) booth — I used to work at CLF, and I wanted to catch up with them. Long talk with Lorraine, who is heading off on a well-deserved sabbatical, traveling up and down the West coast with her husband. Jane was not at the booth, so I didn’t get a chance to say hi to her — but then, that’s what happens at General Assembly, you don’t see half the people you hoped to see.
On the way to the CLF booth, I unexpectedly ran into Megan. She has just graduated from college, and is heading off to teach elementary school in New York City. She’ll be living and working in Brooklyn. Public education has long been a central concern for Unitarian Universalists, so I’m always excited when young adult Unitarian Universalists become teachers.
And I talked to several other people, until I felt refreshed enough to come back to the webworkers room and finish writing up the stories I covered this morning.