Sunday, June 28, 2009

UUs go ‘beyond gender’ (by Suzie)

I’m experiencing post-traumatic stress over the election of the Rev. Peter Morales as the eighth president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. He will be our first Hispanic president, following the Rev. William Sinkford, our first black president. Morales defeated the Rev. Laurel Hallman, who would have been our first female president.

Like many churches, the majority of our members are women. Unlike many, the majority of our ministers are women, too. But even when female candidates have more experience, we elect men to the top job because we find them so inspiring.

This isn't the first time a woman has been defeated for the UUA presidency. But UU women were good little girls and didn't "whine" about it too much.

In an earlier forum, Margot Adler asked the candidates about patriarchy. Hallman talked about “the centrality of male images” in the church, women who have been wounded by patriarchy, and a holistic approach to theology that went beyond the intellectual.

Morales responded that he wanted to go “beyond gender” and look at privilege and class. He said:
… the situation of women who are Black and Latina is very different from the position of women from the dominant culture. … if we focus only on gender, we will miss powerful dynamics of inequality that need to be addressed.
This is the meme that white women (like Hallman) are not really oppressed. Why? Because gender is insufficient reason to be oppressed. Gender must be coupled with other oppressions, such as race or class or disability or sexuality, etc.

Much earlier in the campaign, the candidates had been asked about “anti-racism and anti-oppression.” Morales didn’t say that he wanted to move beyond race and talk about class and privilege.

Morales' father was second-generation Spanish-American, his mother was Mexican-American, and I don’t know when/if* her family immigrated. When he was 4, he said, his parents bought a home in an English-speaking neighborhood so that their children would not speak with a heavy Spanish accent. He won a scholarship to college and ended up getting three master’s degrees.

He has many more privileges than Latinos with less education and less income whose family came to the United States more recently. He has more privileges than a Latina. I’m not faulting him for being a well-educated middle-class man who speaks flawless English, whose skin is lighter than my father’s, and who married a guera. But if we need to talk about class and privilege when it comes to gender, shouldn’t we do the same when it comes to race?

While we’re talking about class and privilege, maybe the UUA can reform its voting rules. Some people who voted on the presidency at the General Assembly followed the wishes of their congregation. Churches like mine, which don’t pay travel expenses for people going to GA, may have no say in how their "delegates" vote. Obviously, this skews in favor of people who have the time, money and inclination to go.

Sinkford has said that electing a person of color is not a shortcut for attracting more members of color. (For links, please see my previous post on the election.) Nevertheless, some UUs wanted Morales because the Latino population is growing in the U.S., and they want more Hispanics to become UUs. We don’t need a female president, however, because women will show up anyway.

At GA, Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell gave the prestigious Ware Lecture, discussing “a litany of the bleak realities in the United States today — the rights not yet held by black, brown, immigrant, gay, and poor Americans.” In the coverage of the speech, I don’t see any mention of gender.

I blogged about Harris-Lacewell before, when she suggested that Hillary Clinton was acting like Scarlett O’Hara, wanting black women to serve her like a Mammy.

I feel like the Chalice Chick who “hasn't forgotten what it was like to be a Hillary supporter early last year when Hillary was 'just more of the same' while Obama was made of kittens and fairy dust and was going to change politics forever and ever.” In the next post, she talks about how some supporters of Morales called him the “Prophet of the Possible.” Sound familiar?

I’m sure I’ll calm down eventually. But right now, I’d say that the UUA can go to hell – except I don’t believe in hell.
*Some Mexican-Americans in San Antonio, where he was born, trace their ancestry to the time when Texas was part of Mexico.