Working Group on Racism
Why Should White BYM Friends Do the Hard Work of Overcoming Their Racism?
Last year BYM global majority Friends expressed the pain many of them feel being among global minority Friends (that is, Friends who identify as white) and invited them to a programmed Meeting for Worship on repairing the harms of racism and becoming a more united Yearly Meeting.
The passage of time makes it easier to acknowledge the pain that BYM ancestors inflicted. They enslaved kidnapped Africans and put them and their descendants to work on lands taken from Native Americans. Later they persuaded the U.S. government to put BYM Quakers in charge of certain subjugated Native nations to impose the values and practices of white society on them. Many BYM Quakers also refused to allow Black children to attend Quaker schools with white children until the 1960’s. Today global minority Friends, when they listen to what members of that global majority tell them, become aware of the harm they still cause global majority Friends. Many members of the global majority are drawn to Quaker spirituality and practice but find it difficult to be among global minority Friends because they are treated as “other” based on unfounded and frequently unconscious assumptions that those global minority Friends make about them.
Global minority Friends, too, experience pain as they become aware of the pain they are causing their fellow human beings. Changing behavior is often difficult especially when that behavior has become ingrained from living in a culture where white people’s needs are prioritized and where whiteness is regarded as the norm. However, love for their fellow human beings can cause global minority Friends to respond to that pain by doing the hard work needed to change their behavior and reduce--as soon as they can—the pain they are causing others.
Fortunately, an abundance of resources—books, videos, podcasts, and workshops, for example—give guidance on how to make the needed changes. What remains is for global minority Friends to make the sustained commitment to follow that guidance and begin reducing the pain caused to global majority Friends. Global minority Friends can begin by asking themselves what antiracist actions they can take right now. Some BYM global minority Friends are already making the effort. Many have taken advantage of learning opportunities such as the recent “Rising from the Ashes” Called Interim Meeting and the Caste book discussion group. Local Meetings—both large and small—from throughout the Yearly Meeting have created Change Groups and reached out to their neighbors on racial issues. The Yearly Meeting itself has adopted new practices that improve the recruiting and consideration of members of the global majority when making hiring decisions.
Quaker teachings urge us to live out our testimony of equality or equity and to address that of God in everyone. We can be “patterns and examples” for the larger community by dismantling the racial barriers within our own Meetings and making our incomplete communities whole. An important part of the effort to dismantle those barriers is for global minority Friends to support one another in the growth of their antiracism so that global majority Friends can feel accepted and comfortable without having to teach global minority Friends how to do that work.
The Working Group on Racism works to consider issues of race relations in general and Friends' testimonies in relation to the issues of race in the modern day. It pursues its work under the care of the Ministry and Pastoral Care Committee.
The Working Group has developed a variety of resources, seminars, and documents that they make available for Friends. Links to many of these are available at www.bym-rsf.org/what_we_do/committees/racismwg/resources.html.
Would you like to join other members and attenders of Friends Meetings in positive discussions about racism in the Religious Society of Friends? If so, click Quakers talk about Racism.
Would you like to chat with fellow Quakers about all the various types of diversity as related to Friends: race, class, age and gender to name a few? If so, then click QuakerQuaker.Org Diversity Group.
Both sites groups direct you to many online resources on these topics. Establishing your own account with these groups enables you to participate fully in the discussions.
The Working Group has published a new flyer: “A Quaker Response to Events in Ferguson, MO – What Can I Do?.” Click here to download a copy.
The Working Group has published a brochure inviting Friends for form change groups to help their Meetings become more whole entitled “You are Invited to Help Friends in Your Meeting Live as Members of the Blessed Community.” Training is available for those of you who accept this invitation.
The Working Group has identified congregations of several denominations in the DC and Baltimore areas that are already “multicultural” (less than 80% of any one ethnicity). Visiting those congregations might give us some ideas of what to do in our Meetings. That list is here.
Listed below are the current members of the Working Group.
David Etheridge, Clerk
Friends Meeting of Washington
Jane Meleny Coe
Bethesda Friends Meeting
Sandy Spring Friends Meeting
Friends Meeting of Washington
Baltimore Monthly Meeting, Stony Run
Bethesda Friends Meeting
Menallen Monthly Meeting
Patience "Pat" Schenck
Annapolis Friends Meeting
Thinking about Race Reports
The text of the Working Group on Racism's monthly Thinking About Race reports is available. To jump to a particular year's reports, simply click the year listed below.
In 2010 and 2011, Baltimore Yearly Meeting undertook a project to consider the vision of the Yearly Meeting community. As a part of that project, each committee was asked to respond to a set of queries that had been promulgated by the ad hoc Visiting Ministers Committee. The Working Group on Racism's responses are available here.