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What are We Called to Do?

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

This week marks the one year anniversary of the unlawful and unjust killing of Breonna Taylor by police officers while she rested in her home. We write today both dismayed at the direction our political leadership has taken in response to her homicide and buoyed by the efforts of many to reform the racist system of policing that caused her death. Our request today is that Kentucky UU’s take a moment to reflect on where we are in relation to the struggle to dismantle racism in America and share with KUUJAN what it is that we need to take our next step in that direction.

There can be no doubt that Kentucky’s current response to the racist devaluing of Black lives is inadequate. Ms. Taylor was killed by police in the gunfire that followed their invasion of her home while executing a search warrant permitting them to enter without announcing themselves first. In addition to our failure to hold any of the officers to account for killing Ms. Taylor, reasonable legislative measures to reform the policing which caused her death (House Bill 21) are now being cast aside in favor of a law (Senate Bill 4) which would simply permit the same policing with more approvals.

Representative Attica Scott, who introduced House Bill 21 (known as Breonna’s Law), is herself a Black woman and stated the problem directly in a speech just days ago: Justice for Breonna Taylor is not a single policy issue. It includes ending the erasure and exclusion of Black women in places of political power. It means challenging institutional and systemic racism in the halls of democracy.

Assuming that details of search warrant approvals is the real issue here misses the point. Search warrants don’t kill people. Our racist system of policing is the culprit, which in turn is based on our racist set of assumptions about the world and how best to seek justice in it. Only comprehensive reform which begins to unravel those assumptions can lead our institutions to act in a way that recognizes the worth and dignity of Black Kentuckians. That type of reform can and should be led by the affected communities sharing their lived experience. It disheartens me to see that our collective leadership has not taken the opportunity to listen.

But both for Breonna’s Law and for our own path towards multiculturalism, there is always a cause for hope. The proposed 8th principle, which congregations in Kentucky have began to consider and adopt, calls us to strive for spiritual wholeness in the work of building a multicultural Beloved Community. We can and must take stock of what we are doing as Unitarian Universalists to address the widespread devaluing of the lives of Black Americans and other people of color. To that end, the Racial Justice Team of KUUJAN has put together an assessment of the needs of our members and congregations in their racial justice ministry work. The survey is short and takes only 5 minutes to complete. Our hope is that we can gather information about the types of support and assistance that Kentucky UU’s would find helpful while exploring their role in accountably dismantling racism. Please CLICK HERE to participate in the survey.

-- The KUUJAN Racial Justice Team

ETA: Representative Attica Scott shares her frustration with the racism in the Kentucky Legislature in this editorial.

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