Why do we do justice work? Theologically speaking, we are guided by ancient tradition and covenants that teach us to “do unto others as we would have them do unto us.” A more contemporary articulation for Unitarian Universalists would be that to honor the inherent worth and dignity of every person means advocating for all human expression whatever the situation. Such advocacy is how we honor that worth. But when we’re crossing cultural boundaries in doing our advocacy work, we need to be mindful that our efforts do not patronize nor our expressions become misappropriation.
In my own anti-racism and anti-oppression work over the last decades, and especially in the early days of that awakening in me, I came to appreciate a way to understand “compassion” more fully. I am thinking here about the Latin roots of the word compassion: the prefix com meaning with, and passion meaning to feel. “Com-passion” equals “feeling with.” I’m not writing about some action where one in privilege reaches down to alleviate the pain of someone less fortunate. That is a vapid, empty devaluation of the word itself. But I am talking about discovering ways to identify with those whose positions we advocate, so that their concerns and their struggles become ours in the most intimate, intuitive ways. (more…)