by Emily Dietrich

Confronting Racism in My Siblings in Spirit

Here is a comment from a white female FB friend I met through book publishing:

“My God people, if you sit in a restaurant for 25 minutes and absolutely refuse to order anything you are loitering and they have the right to ask you to leave. Order a fricking cup of coffee or a bottle of water. Otherwise wait for your very tardy friend outside. They were within their rights to ask them to leave. It wasn’t about them being black, it was about store loitering policies [sic]. This stupid race shit has guy [sic] to stop.”

(I responded in an attempt to interrupt her racism that I don’t share here because I don’t want feedback on whether or not I responded correctly.)

I need to acknowledge that I have no expectation that she, a distant FB friend, shares my morals. Therefore, finding out that she was racist did not disturb and surprise me as much as it does when my Unitarian Universalist siblings in spirit reveal theirs in equally oblivious ways. When UUs do so, I am much more agitated. I believe that this is an appropriate response on my part.

I believe it is appropriate when discovering that people you love, admire, support, serve, listen to, feed, clean up after, plan events for, whose kids you’ve taught, whose worships you’ve planned and carried out, say racist things, to speak in a way that reveals the way you really feel, the deep and intense feeling of shock and disappointment you feel. When the SOULS of my white siblings are at stake and the BODIES of my siblings of color are at stake, I will not watch my tone.

I believe speaking in my own voice is a manifestation of being human, being loving, and being true to myself in an integrated and authentic manner. I honor myself when I do so, and I equally honor my UU siblings when I do so. I hold them to the same standards I hold myself. This is adult to adult interaction, one of the most sacred interchanges we have.

And when it comes to white people and racism, those standards have never EVER, in the history of the United States of America, been high enough.

Author: Emily

Emily Dietrich is a poet, novelist, and mystery writer.


  1. Most people don’t think they’re racist, so they need to hear why certain situations are, in fact, racist. They will justify themselves to you, because your criticism will make them feel vulnerable, but maybe deep inside they’ll have to ascertain whether they want to make the world a better place or just pretend it already is. The ugliness and danger of racism is masked by the righteousness of privileged people who believe themselves to have a higher understanding of our culture. Thanks for taking this on, Emily.

  2. Everybody wants to be a good person, and wants to see themselves as a good person. It’s hard to confront people when they betray themselves as holding racist assumptions, particularly if they wouldn’t consider that their assumptions *are* racist. It *is* important to do — and hard. I don’t know that I’ve been successful in those situations. I’m sorry that your house of worship no longer feels like a spiritual home. I was really happy to speak at a service there, and I’m really sorry to hear this news. Souls and bodies — I agree, racism hurts us all, to varying degrees and in differing ways. Good luck to us all, and here’s hoping that justice and mercy may prevail, and that the reign of violence, injustice, and fear that racism brought to America’s people of color may come to an end.