Day 12: Changing Demographics Call on Us All to Change
Today is Day 12 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s daily action is to ask yourself: How do I identify myself in terms of ability, race and/or ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression? Spend some time journaling or drawing about how your identities influence how you see the world and the world sees you. Click here for resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
Driving home on Sunday afternoon, I heard Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom of California on the radio say that 75% of new kindergarten students in California are non-white. I’ll be honest, that number shocked me. I knew demographics were changing but 75% of all new kindergarten students in the whole state? I was sure I heard him wrong. When I arrived home, I looked it up. What I found is that I had, in fact, misheard him. The actual number is 76%!
That statistic, more than anything I’ve heard recently about changing demographics, sunk in. As a white person, unless I develop my ability to step outside my cultural understandings and experience, I will find myself in narrower and narrower circles. I’ve known that’s been important for a long time now; that’s why I’ve made my own intercultural competence a personal/professional goal and a part of my ongoing spiritual practice.
We all have work to do in extending our circles of intercultural competence. If you’re a white American Unitarian Universalist, like I am, maybe it’s becoming more familiar with Egyptian Muslim immigrants. If you’re a black, heterosexual woman, perhaps it’s learning about the experience of transgender people. If you’re able-bodied, maybe it’s coming to understand the life of someone who’s deaf or navigates in a wheelchair.
As individuals become more interculturally competent, so must our faith communities. Not only because monoculture faith communities will become irrelevant, but because, as people committed to ending oppression, we have a moral obligation to continually widen our circles of love.
That’s why the Multicultural Growth and Witness team at the UUA began the Multicultural Ministries Sharing Project in 2013. Its purpose is to learn from people who have historically marginalized identities/experiences around ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, race, and/or ethnicity and ask them to reflect on their experiences, their needs, and their vision for the future of Unitarian Universalism.
I’m thrilled to announce that 1,500 people responded to our survey between July 1 and November 31, 2013. We couldn’t have asked for better geographic distribution of the respondents. They are almost equally divided among census regions: 23% from the Midwest, 23% from the Northeast, 27% from the West and 27% from the South.
We are currently in the process of analyzing the results and figuring out what the data tell us. We’ve learned, for example, that people choose many ways to identify in terms of sexual orientation. We asked people to “select the identity(ies) that you apply to yourself in terms of sexual orientation.” When the respondents answered, they didn’t just choose the commonly referred to identities of straight or gay. People also responded in significant numbers to lesbian, bisexual, queer, pansexual, homosexual, asexual, and same-gender loving. Of those who identified as straight, many also claimed a heterosexual identity; a significant number indicated they preferred the term heterosexual to straight.
These data, among others in the survey, will help us develop new relevant curriculum and resources to support the Welcoming Congregation program. Other data and text responses will provide valuable insights into how we need to adapt our congregations to a changing demographic. I do hope for great outcomes from the survey. I know, too, that this is an exciting time for us to embrace the changing demographics with intention, faith, and love. Stay tuned. We’ll be releasing data through www.StandingontheSideofLove.org as it becomes available, with a final report due out by the UUA’s General Assembly in Providence, RI this coming June.
LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs Director