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We Can’t Keep Our Children Safe

Posted by Annie Gonzalez Milliken // November 25th 2015 // Social Justice, youth // no comments

Fear, safety, protests, and supporting the movement for Black lives

When my daughter Moira was born I expected to feel deep love. What I wasn’t expecting was how much that love hurt.  I love her in this deeply protective way that was horrifying at first and I still find overwhelming. My partner and I strive to be non-panicky parents and, for the most part, I think we do a decent job.  Still, I have double checked to make sure she was breathing in her sleep many more times than is rational.  She’s only three months old and I know this is going to get so much worse once she can crawl, walk, go to school, drive a car, make choices and take actions.  I know that she will get hurt both physically and emotionally as we all do.  I can only imagine how much I will hate that.  

We cannot keep our children safe.  The world is complicated, full of risks, and there is no way to ensure the avoidance of bodily harm much less the avoidance of emotional or psychological damage.  And yet I want to keep my daughter safe so much that I’m tearing up as I write this.  I am not alone.

cars on highway

after 9/11/01 many people chose to drive rather than take a plane, when really driving is statistically more dangerous

Everyone wants to keep their children safe. Syrian refugees fleeing constant threats to their lives want to keep their children safe. People like me who worry about random possibilities like SIDS but don’t have to worry about bombs or racial profiling want to keep our children safe.  And for those of us who face fewer regular threats it is easy to read a story about a strange accident, a rare disease or a random mass shooting and fall into the pit of terror, wanting so badly for there to be an action we can take to guard against these possibilities.  Studies have shown that many folks find it hard to distinguish between high and low risk situations when fear is fed by media.

On a spiritual level, it is important for us to sit with our fear, to notice where it lives in our body. We must question how our fear might be used by politicians seeking votes or corporations with products to sell and resist fear mongering.  We can also discern how we might use our fear toward the greater good: supporting peace, working to end white supremacy, mitigating gun violence, standing in solidarity against terror of all kinds.

Youth Caucus showed leadership at General Assembly by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement

Youth Caucus showed leadership at General Assembly by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement

On a practical level, we in the Unitarian Universalist Association Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries have heard that Religious Educators and other religious professionals are seeking resources on navigating the complicated territory of risk and safety for minors.  Particularly right now as we reel from the white supremacist shootings of Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis, some of our people want specific resources around how our Unitarian Universalist youth can live our faith commitments in safe(r) ways.

Youth might feel excited about joining a movement, going where the action is, putting their body where their values are.  And religious professionals may worry about the risks of marches, die-ins and other street protests, as will many parents.  While there really is no way to keep our youth free from harm, it is important to practice thoughtful discernment around how we put our faith into action.

(with gratitude to Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen for compiling these links)

An article exploring different types of social change, specifically regarding ending mass incarceration
This resource is dense, but lists five core steps for transforming society:
1. personal and cultural preparation
2. organization building and networking across issues
3. confrontation with unjust authority
4. mass political and economic non-cooperation
5. parallel institutions
These steps can help youth and adults see the big picture of where street protests fit into ending white supremacy

A youth curriculum to get youth thinking about race, identity and justice
Be the Change” is a UUA resource and a good place to start with a group of youth who are interested in exploring racism and identity politics together

Two youth tapestry of faith sessions on courage, one from “Virtue Ethics” and one from “Heeding the Call
These resources could help youth think about many different ways to be courageous in the face of injustice

A youth tapestry of faith session and an adult tapestry of faith session on decision making
The youth session from “Virtue Ethics,” could help youth in making careful decisions about the way they participate in justice work; the adult session from “What We Choose” might be appropriate for older youth, concerned parents, or religious professionals who are wanting to make theologically grounded decisions about activism

A youth tapestry of faith session on responsible leadership in justice movements
From “Heeding the Call,” this resource could help youth consider how they can navigate their commitment to justice alongside other commitments responsibly

A UU world article on how to support the movement for black lives
This resource could be useful to anyone seeking holistic ways to support this particular racial justice movement

An article on how to show up “where the action is” in a thoughtful intentional way
Though this resource was created specifically for folks coming to Ferguson, it’s relevant for anyone considering showing up as a guest at a protest or demonstration, whether it’s the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis or your local vigil for racial justice.  It prods people to ask the question “What impact will my actions have on people who will be staying in this space after I’m gone?”

The American Civil Liberties Union site on the rights of protestors
This resource could support anyone in our UU communities to understand the rights of those choosing to support the Black Lives Matter movement through protest

A site for donating to the Minneapolis Black Lives Matter jail support fund
This is a way to support the group in Minneapolis organizing for #Justice4Jamar

The author's daughter, Moira, prior to going to support Black Lives Matter protestors at a court appearance

The author’s daughter, Moira, dressed for an outing to support Black Lives Matter protestors at their court appearance

Clearly, there are many ways that people of all ages can support racial justice in our society. The most important thing is that all of us take thoughtful, intentional and spiritually grounded steps to end white supremacy and white terrorism.  Our faith calls us to do this and the lives of many people depend on it.

About the Author

Annie is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and currently serves our faith as the Young Adult and Campus Ministry Associate for the Unitarian Universalist Association.
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