Imagining A New Way

Imagining A New Way

As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm our commitment to co-creating the Beloved Community. This term, coined by Martin Luther King Jr., proclaims a vision of America when racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of siblinghood; where poverty, hunger, and homelessness are not tolerated. We celebrate our vision every Sunday in worship, and I pray we are, each of us, working to create the Beloved Community in our larger world.
 
I ask you: “Have you become tolerant of homelessness, tolerant of poverty? Have you demonstrated an all-inclusive spirit to all the people in your life, even strangers, even while getting your coffee at a Starbucks?”
 
A few years ago, I wrote a poem for children, teaching them about a disturbing nationwide and local pattern of police shooting unarmed people with black and brown skin for extremely minor violations, or no reason at all. The poem contained only light allusion to the facts, with no mention of violence. Still, this was, as you might imagine, a controversial topic for a children’s story. But I felt it was important to honor the fact that not everyone grows up trusting the police.

In fact, I didn’t. My dad was roughed up by local cops as a young long-haired man, and my parents first met each other at a Chicago protest against police brutality in 1969. I was always told to run to my neighbor’s house if I ever felt I was in danger. My neighbors knew they were our emergency contact. I have never breathed a sigh of relief
knowing the police were coming to take care of a situation.
 
I question some people’s desire to police others; to choose comfort over compassion, criminalization over curiosity. Whether it’s loitering, panhandling, or taking too much time on a golf course, the centering of our feelings and our comfort, can become dangerous situations when we involve the police.
I believe in a different concept of America; towards a Beloved Community. Where we respect people’s right to take the time they need, to live their lives freely in public space. Some faith communities, including a UU congregation, have decided to stop calling the police. What if we made that commitment? I think it’s worth exploring.
 
Next time you are in a situation, is there a way to learn more, to express concern without judgment, to explore various outcomes that could involve other kinds of help besides law enforcement? We have agency in our communities and in our world, to become intolerant of the forces that uphold bigotry and institutional racism.
Be a peacemaker in every part of your world. May you have the strength and courage to intervene with a more humane, curious resolution to the conflicts you encounter.
 
Blessed Be.

Taryn Strauss