Thinking about Race

2013 Items

Are we thinking about queries? (January 2013)

Some of you may know that both Pendle Hill and Friends General Conference have, during 2012, put forth queries around issues of race for potential use by people within these respective organizations, as well as for Quaker Meetings at all levels and for committees to use or adapt. The BYM Working Group on Racism has also developed queries that have, to date, circulated only informally. Also within Baltimore Yearly Meeting, at the August Annual Sessions in Frostburg, the following query, developed by Young Friends within the camping program, was presented on the floor of Yearly Meeting and greeted with much enthusiasm:

How do we work toward creating a community of different people, rather than a community that lets different people in?

After the enthusiasm, the application. What will our meeting do?


February 2013

At this time of year, families with college-bound students are attentive to admissions issues. A New York Times editorial on November 19, 2012, addressed “Class-Based vs Race-Based Admissions.” Here are excerpts:

“To maintain or build the levels of racial diversity on selective campuses, it is necessary to maintain race-conscious admissions. ….

“For colleges and universities committed to diversity, the right way to think about class- and race-conscious admissions is as complements rather than alternatives. Both are essential for a truly diverse campus.

“Maintaining race-conscious admissions contributes significantly to campus diversity, while serving racial and social justice. Expanding class-conscious admissions significantly expands diversity while serving social and economic justice — though it also requires considerably more financial aid, which is why the wealthiest and most selective colleges and universities have more such diversity.”

March 2013

Women’s History Month: Honoring Augusta Savage (Honoring Who?) Augusta Savage is one of the hundreds of African American Women whose names and work we would honor—were they not women of color. Augusta Savage was a sculptor who did get some recognition in her own community for her busts of prominent black leaders like Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. In the 1930s and 1940s she maintained a teaching studio in Harlem and was a founder of the Harlem Artists Guild (1935). In 1937, she was commissioned to create a work for the World’s Fair to commemorate and symbolize the musical contributions of African Americans. She chose the national Black anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as her inspiration for her sculpture, “The Harp.” The strings were represented by Black Americans and the soundboard the arm and hand of God. Although it was one of the most popular works at the Fair, it was destroyed when the Fair closed because she had no money to move or store it. See the amazing Harp at

Thanks to Donna McDaniel of New England Yearly Meeting for this item.

Do we keep ourselves separate? (April 2013)

Some people just don’t see. Particularly members of groups with more social/economic power (whites, men, non-poor, global north), easily assume that our experience is the norm, and that everyone else would be fine if they just “got with the program.” Then there are those who see but would choose to focus only on our commonality. We say, “Let us not name issues that divide us.” We say, “Let us avoid topics that are loaded with emotion and pain. Let us try to be decent individuals in individual interactions, relating on the basis of what we have in common.” The choice to find commonality with others attracts those of us who hate conflict and would wish away oppression in a desperate hope that the situation isn’t really that bad. Yet this attitude still keeps us separate by excluding all of our experiences of racial, ethnic, class, and religious identify and interaction from the conversation. If we don’t name those experiences and talk about them, other people cannot be sure we know they exist, and therefore they cannot be sure that they are being fully seen.

From Pendle Hill Pamphlet # 420, Waging Peace: Discipline and Practice, by Pamela Haines, December 2012, p. 16-17.

White Identity Exploration Group (May 2013)

When Friends [School of Baltimore] announced that we would be starting a White Identity Exploration Group for parents this spring [2012], we received a range of responses. The School had successfully launched affinity programs for parents of children of color as well as for same-sex, adoptive and single or divorced parents – all of which are minority groups at Friends. Why, some argued, would white parents, as a majority on campus, need to meet around their racial identify? Other parents decried the notion of a singular white identity, arguing against the notion that there is only one way to be white. ….

The truth is we all have a racial identity. Understanding it, and how it impacts those with whom we interact, is not about further separating ourselves from those who are different from us. Quite the opposite: Such identity exploration among majority and minority groups can facilitate relationships by dispelling stereotypes and identifying shared values and characteristics.

Diversity exists within any group. Striving not to see differences when we look at each other – the once-popular “identity blindness” theory – presumes that difference is inherently bad when, really, it provides exciting opportunities for learning and mutual sharing.

From “Diversity Notes,” by Felicia Wilks, Director of Diversity at Friends School of Baltimore, in the Spring 2012 Collection, p. 9.