Racial Justice Work: What We Risk

By Mary DeVitt

Black Lives Matter

Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.

 —
George Addair

Black Lives Matter is a call for us to take risks. This is a central message of Black Lives Matter to Wisconsin UUs (BLM2WUU), our collaborative of 5 Milwaukee UU congregations.

Since its beginning, the Collaborative has been working together to demand justice for Dontre Hamilton and Jay Anderson, local victims of police shootings. Through this work, we have grown connections with other groups working for racial justice and educated ourselves and our congregations about systemic racism and the work needed to dismantle it.

Part of this work has been offering a series of Beyond the Banner workshops, from January through September of last year. After these workshops, we inquired of attendees what keeps them from engaging more deeply in racial justice work. The most frequently named barrier was fear. The identified fears ranged from fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, to fear of alienating or incurring the wrath of family, friends, neighbors and associates, to fear of rejection by people of color, and the fear of arrest and/or retaliation by police.

How should we respond to such fears? The 2015 GA call for Immediate Witness has guided our collaborative to overcome our fears by taking the risk of collective action.

One of our local partners is the Milwaukee chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ-MKE). Risk is one of their stated values. They remind us that “While we take on real risk…people of color take risks every day by living and moving through the world.”

Standing on the side of love requires that we acknowledge the risks of not acting and the harm that systemic racism does to all of us. “Let us be strong and take heart.”

 

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