Kendi Revisited: A Very Questionable Proposal

Rev. Craig Moro, a Unitarian Universalist minister, has designed a very creative discussion tool that offers a comparative perspective on Ibram X. Kendi’s recent proposal for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to add a Department Of Antiracism at the Cabinet level. This exercise lifts up an additional concern about the proposed Eighth Principle that the leadership of the Unitarian Universalist Association wants to add to the existing Seven Principles.

Sunday program: “Accountable Dismantling” and the Proposed 8th Principle.

Here is a simple framework for a member-led program on the proposed 8th Principle and “accountable dismantling”. Modify according to your needs!

•Begin with a reading of your choice on freedom of thought or restrictions on such freedom, perhaps from Orwell’s 1984. Sing your favorite “freedom” hymns throughout.

•Share the modified policy proposal below, perhaps suggesting that it was found at the Justice Department after Trump’s departure, in a drawer in the Oval Office, whatever—be creative! You can always say, “I’m not quite sure where…”

“To fix the original sin of socialism, Americans should pass an anti-socialist amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enshrines…guiding anti-socialist principals… The amendment would make unconstitutional …socialist ideas by public officials (with “socialist ideas” and “public official” clearly defined). It would establish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-socialism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on socialism and no political appointees. The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure [compliance], monitor those policies, investigate private socialist policies when social inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of socialist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their socialist policy and ideas.”

•Invite discussion for a few minutes. Invite participants to reflect on whether they are certain that they can recognize “socialism” when they see it. Ask whether they are comfortable with empowering a department of “formally trained experts on socialism”—who are not answerable to voters—making such decisions for the rest of us, “empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their socialist policies and ideas.”

•Share this counter-proposal, perhaps suggesting that it has been proposed by someone in the new presidential administration and leaked to the press:

“To fix the original sin of fascism, Americans should pass an anti-fascist amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enshrines…guiding anti-fascist principals…The amendment would make unconstitutional …fascist ideas by public officials (with “fascist ideas” and “public official” clearly defined). It would establish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-fascism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on fascism and no political appointees. The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure [compliance], monitor those policies, investigate private fascist policies when social inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of fascist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their fascist policy and ideas.”

•Invite discussion, as before. Shoe’s on the other foot now: Is it okay to smash the right foot with a hammer, but not the left? Who is confident of what constitutes a “fascist” idea, or with empowering a department of “formally trained experts on fascism”—who are not answerable to voters—making such decisions for the rest of us, “empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their fascist policies and ideas.” (Remember, we’re talking control of ideas, not goons with guns and zip-ties.)

•Now share the actual proposal from which the first two were derived:

“To fix the original sin of racism, Americans should pass an anti-racist amendment to the U.S. Constitution that enshrines two guiding anti-racist principals: Racial inequity is evidence of racist policy and the different racial groups are equals. The amendment would make unconstitutional racial inequity over a certain threshold, as well as racist ideas by public officials (with “racist ideas” and “public official” clearly defined). It would establish and permanently fund the Department of Anti-racism (DOA) comprised of formally trained experts on racism and no political appointees. The DOA would be responsible for preclearing all local, state and federal public policies to ensure they won’t yield racial inequity, monitor those policies, investigate private racist policies when racial inequity surfaces, and monitor public officials for expressions of racist ideas. The DOA would be empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policy and ideas.” –Ibram X. Kendi

•Invite discussion as before. Invite participants to reflect on whether they are certain that they can recognize “racism” when they see it. Ask whether they are comfortable with empowering a department of “formally trained experts on racism”—who are not answerable to voters—“empowered with disciplinary tools to wield over and against policymakers and public officials who do not voluntarily change their racist policies and ideas.”

•Read the proposed “8th Principle out loud: “We will journey together toward spiritual wholeness by building a diverse, multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.” You can choose to read this aloud by itself, or begin with the 7 established principles which will help raise the question of whether any addition is really needed.

•Ask: Is the UUA proposing some version of Kendi’s “DOA”? Would most of our members be comfortable with such a permanent department at the UUA, or such a committee in their local congregations? Or perhaps it would be some sort of traveling “Racism Assessor” appointed by the UUA to check on our ideas and use “disciplinary tools to wield over and against” us when we disagree with their assessment of our thoughts, words, and actions? Are we happy with this vision of “the faith of the free”?

•Move to end by showing this video featuring Coleman Hughes’ response to Kendi’s proposal (or show during an after service discussion, as time permits). Click here to see Hughes’ response in text form.

•Closing words—The 5th UU Principle, perhaps?

•Have time for a post service discussion, and have fun!

Best wishes,

Rev. Craig Moro