The Emperor’s New Clothes Meets Absurdist Agitprop
A Review of “Widening the Circle of Concern”
(Or, more accurately “Widening Covenential Coercion”)
Many years ago, there were religious leaders so very fond of their enlightened ideology that they spent all their time congratulating themselves on their elevation. They did not trouble about their congregations. They did not care to go to those who thought differently. They only went out when they had the chance to show off their enlightened ideology.
One day (Oct 17, 2016), two skilled tailors came to town. They said that they knew how to weave White Supremacy Culture ideology of the most beautiful colors and patterns. The truth of this ideology would be invisible to everyone who was unfit for the job they held, or who was very simple in character.
“This must, indeed, be a splendid ideology!” thought the Board of Trustees. “If we had such a suit, we might at once find out what members of our kingdom are unfit for their job. We would be able to tell the wise from the foolish! This stuff must be woven for us immediately.” They gave large sums of money to both the weavers in order that they might begin their work at once.
The day before the board meeting began, trustees participated in an all-day training in multicultural, antiracist, and anti-oppressive work. Several trustees said the training was powerful and influential in helping them reimagine how the board makes it decisions. “We were able to successfully make a decision without using Robert’s Rules of Order…We made a decision that we all understood without [first] perfecting the language, so we managed to challenge white supremacist decision-making.”
So the decision was made and the ideology was prepared and all the people standing by, and those at the windows, cried out, “Oh! How beautiful is our new ideology! What a magnificent historical narrative there is! How powerfully the evidence proves that our religion is awash in White Supremacy Culture!” No one would admit that this much admired ideology could not be seen because, in doing so, they would have been saying they were either a simpleton or unfit for their job.
Then, in March of 2017, the Trustees hired a white man for the Southern Regional Lead position. One of the “finalists” who was not hired was a Person of Color. This did not go well either.
Leslie Mac, a member of the Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism organizing collective, wrote, “Just when I think the UU Faith has made some strides, I feel the pull the white supremacy in the faith snap the back of my neck. It feels like whiplash. It is PHYSICAL. It is SPIRITUAL. It is PAINFUL. And those in power should be ASHAMED at themselves for perpetuating and cultivating Anti-Blackness as the default setting of the UUA.”
But then, the leader of the High Council, himself, resigned because of all this and said:
I have every expectation that my words will be twisted and misinterpreted. However, I cannot remain silent. The two topics which compel me to speak are the acceptance and repetition of a false narrative and, as a result of that narrative, the terrible way a number of colleagues have been treated. First, the narrative of the event which triggered all of this (the selection of… a regional lead in Congregational Life) is simply false. The commonly accepted story is that an eminently qualified Latina was not hired for a position because she was passed over for a white male. The narrative is that she was not hired because she is a Latina. Let me be as clear as I can be: this is simply false.
And when the Trustees held the annual convention of their Kingdom in 2017 they appointed a “commission” to investigate concerns around this controversy.
The Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association on Wednesday, June 21, appointed the members of the newly created Commission on Institutional Change, whose focus will be an examination of the impact of white supremacy on Unitarian Universalism. The commission has been created in response to the hiring practices controversy at the UUA.
So, the narrative presented by the tailors of this beautiful new ideology was “false” according to the resigned leader of the High Council, whose views on this matter ought to have been considered. But, no, the Commission on Institutional Change — who were also skilled tailors of the invisible — did not care to investigate this at all. They began their “study” with their already predetermined conclusion that the Emperor was fully clothed in the finest ideology and anyone who disagreed was either not fit for their job or a simpleton.
They actively sought biased input, asking only the question:
In what ways have you or your group or community been hurt by current racist and culturally biased attitudes and practices within Unitarian Universalism?
Clearly and obviously this kind of “sampling” is something that would cause any objective study in any other Kingdom to be laughed into oblivion. But these weavers weren’t interested in “studying” or “sampling” — only in weaving a document to support their predetermined conclusion. They knew that they had very little to worry about in this Kingdom of timid and fearful white liberals. One of the authors waved away some quiet “concerned” mutterings with a tut-tut saying their beautiful and skillful weaving,
operates within a domain of knowledge, philosophy, that operates with a different logic than social science.
This document they wove doesn’t even really deserve the “agitprop” label — even though that is its only purpose — it is really very incompetent, even as agitprop. (At least the Stalinists were brutally efficient with their’s.) But, nonetheless, the Emperor’s lackeys wave around a bound copy of this absurdist incompetent agitprop in the face of those who, even very timidly, wonder about the Emperor’s wardrobe.
It is a waste of time to go into the absurdities of this “report” for they are numerous and obvious and tediously incoherent. But many, many in the Kingdom believe in them utterly. And they will not release their tense grip upon this “report” because to do so would show themselves to be timid, fearful, victims of a skillful con. They so desperately want to believe themselves in possession of an elevated and enlightened ideology that to admit such folly would be utterly devastating.
However, it is clear, that those who point out the Emperor’s nakedness are severely punished. A “gadfly” who did this was pilloried by 500 members of the Emperor’s court before they had even read the book he wrote. Then he was excommunicated and disfellowshipped as a warning to any who might dare to speak the obvious truth that the Emperor was not clothed in any way and that the beautifully woven ideology was truly empty and invisible.