The Unitarian Church of Hinsdale invites our neighbors to join us in dismantling systemic racism. Our members responded to the headline events of the past two years by forming a “Black Lives Matter Initiative” in the fall. We created opportunities to learn how government policies have created different levels of opportunity for people of various skin tones.
What we learned has actually been more disturbing than the attention-getting headlines and deepened our commitment to disrupt the status quo. As people of faith, we are called to work for a society that values every single person and does not perpetuate hierarchies of value among people. Because every major faith tradition calls us to treat others as we would like to be treated, we are inviting our neighbors of other faiths to join us.
We begin from a place of compassion and have been clear that this is not about assigning guilt. The most dangerous thing about institutionalized racism is that white people can be loving, caring individuals and yet still benefit from a system that prioritizes them over people of color.
If your neighbor’s house is on fire, it’s not helpful to feel guilty. It is helpful to offer aid in whatever way is possible. The rationalization for white people leading anti-racist work is that we believe every person should have equal opportunities to succeed and that the people who have institutional power must use it to influence and change an unfair system.
Some people have asked “Why Hinsdale? This is a big city issue.” But officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot unarmed teen Laquon McDonald 16 times in Chicago, was born in Hinsdale and graduated from Hinsdale South High School. The attitudes and enculturated false dichotomies which perpetuate racism are alive in the suburbs and it is our work to eradicate them. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We are called by faith to do the work of justice.
It is important to note that we are incredibly proud of the Hinsdale Police department and their commitment to training and vigilance in monitoring police interactions with citizens. Our police department has been a leader in Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for all its officers, which helps deescalate potentially dangerous situations. We are working with Chief Kevin Simpson to support a model of law enforcement that inspires better policing throughout the entire country.
Our church has spent this past year learning, sharing, investigating and witnessing the demonstrable truth that black lives do not matter as much as white lives in so many ways today. On May 15th we voted to culminate the year’s work by installing a “Black Lives Matter- Join the Conversation Here” banner on our church property in June. Chief Simpson and members of the police department have been invited to join us in a demonstration of solidarity and hope for the future. This banner invites the larger community to walk with us, to learn with us, and to create a more just world together.
We have a resource list on our website http://www.hinsdaleunitarian.org/new/?page_id=1654 as well as a timeline of things we have already done. We will be publicizing our schedule for next year and inviting everyone to join us in learning more and in finding ways to create a society that is truly respectful of every single person.
Rev Pamela Rumancik