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Thinking about Race

2016 Items

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel - (December 2016)

On January 14-17, 1963, a National Conference on Race and Religion took place in Chicago. Among other speakers were Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Rabbi Heschel's address on January 14 appears as one chapter in the 1966 book The Insecurity of Freedom, from which this passage is drawn.

“'Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them!' (Ecclesiastes 4:1)

“There is a form of oppression which is more painful and more scathing than physical injury or economic privation. It is public humiliation. What afflicts my conscience is that my face, whose skin happens not to be dark, instead of radiating the likeness of God, has come to be taken as an image of haughty assumption and overbearance. Whether justified or not, I, the white man, have become in the eyes of others a symbol of arrogance and pretension, giving offense to other human beings, hurting their pride, even without intending it. My very presence inflicting insult!

“My heart is sick when I think of the anguish and the sighs, of the quiet tears shed in the nights in the overcrowded dwellings in the slums of our great cities, of the pangs of despair, of the cup of humiliation that is running over.

“The crime of murder is tangible and punishable by law. The sin of insult is imponderable, invisible. When blood is shed, human eyes see red; when a heart is crushed, it is only God who shares the pain.”

FFAD Minute Regarding State Sanctioned Violence (November 2016)

“The Fellowship of Friends of African Descent [FFAD] is a 25 year old Quaker organization that supports the spiritual nurture of Quakers of African descent and provides opportunities for sharing our concerns. ….


“The problems of racism, militarism and violence that we face are rooted in the deeper, less recognized sicknesses of materialism and greed. From the slave trade and plantation economics of the American south to the terroristic subjugation of Jim Crow to the modern-day profits of miseducation and mass incarceration, racial stereotypes have been used to mask and justify the exploitation and denial of economic human rights to people of African descent. As a result, these communities are under-resourced, as is evidenced by the lack of jobs, healthcare, quality education and decent housing. In the absence of real opportunities for employment and economic self-sufficiency underground economies rise up in our communities to fill the gap. People in these economies are criminalized and prosecuted even though they are only seeking to provide enough resources to support their families. We realize that we cannot have a meaningful conversation about ending racial oppression without also addressing classism, joblessness and wealth inequality.

“In response to these realities, we, as Quakers and as people of African descent call for the following:


You may read the details of these four items and the full minute at Click the “Minute Regarding State-Sanctioned Violence” link on that page.

White Delusion (September 2016)

From “A History of White Delusion” by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, July 14, 2016

“My hunch is that we will … look back and conclude that today’s calls for racial justice, if anything, understate the problem — and that white America, however well meaning, is astonishingly oblivious to pervasive inequity.

“As it happens, the trauma surgeon running the Dallas emergency room last Thursday when seven police officers were brought in with gunshot wounds is a black man, Brian Williams. He fought to save the lives of those officers and wept for those he couldn’t help. But in other contexts he dreads the police: He told The Associated Press that after one traffic stop he was stretched out spread-eagle on the hood of a police car.

“Williams shows his admiration for police officers by sometimes picking up their tabs at restaurants, but he also expressed his feelings for the police this way to The Washington Post: ‘I support you. I defend you. I will care for you. That doesn’t mean I will not fear you.’ ”

A "Scholarship of Belonging" (Summer 2016)

“For far too long, society has treated minority groups from a deficit analysis, focusing on what they lack rather than what they add. Institutions have reacted to racial tensions instead of proactively creating inclusive spaces. We have taught people how to adjust to an unacceptable status quo instead of sharing the legitimate means to challenge injustice. By not taking the time to listen to people, we have let efficiency trump listening and allowed limited diversity to supplant real equity at the table, at the lectern, and in the boardroom….

“We all have good will, but we must move beyond good will. Universities can help improve a sense of belonging by setting clear goals, fostering inclusive environments, and challenging negative stereotypes about certain groups. We have to create structures that ensure participation of minority groups in decisions. We need to model and teach the competencies of deep listening and respectful dialogue across differences. We must also determine how to work cooperatively to transform deeply embedded practices that have created barriers to belonging.”

Excerpts from an article by Julio Frenk, “Why We Need a ‘Scholarship of Belonging’,” published in the May 20, 2016, Chronicle of Higher Education. Julio Frank is president of the University of Miami and former dean of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

White Fragility (June 2016)

“White people in the U.S. live in the context of white supremacy. This context provides an insular, racially privileged social environment that builds our expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering our tolerance for racial stress. I term this lack of racial stamina ‘White Fragility.” White Fragility is a state in which even a minimal challenge to white entitlement and the white worldview becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves including argumentation, invalidation, silence, withdrawal and claims of being ‘attacked’ and not feeling ‘safe.’ These moves function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and maintain white supremacy. In so doing, our freedom is limited and the movement we need to create racial equity and justice is blocked. This workshop will provide an overview of white fragility and the perspectives and skills needed for white people to build their racial stamina and re-imagine more equitable and just norms and practices.”

Description of a workshop offered at the White Privilege Conference (WPC17) by Robin DiAngelo. She holds a PhD in Multicultural Education, is Director of Equity for Sound Generations in King County/Seattle, Washington, and is a consultant and trainer. See more at: The WPC17 took place in Philadelphia, April 14-17, 2016. Eleven Quaker organizations were part of the 14-member Host Team, and five others were sponsors at various levels, including Baltimore Yearly Meeting. Friends General Conference had invited the WPC to Philadelphia. About a dozen people from BYM attended the conference, which had an attendance of 2500 people, 500 of whom were Quakers and 260 of whom were high school students.

"One Black Friends's Experience" (April 2016)

This month’s “Thinking About Race” item is from our own home territory. An African-American woman, a member of Friends Meeting of Washington, sent to the BYM Working Group on Racism her story of a recent episode with the police.

“I got pulled over by a white state policeman on I-66 yesterday. I have rarely been so terrified in my life. I was simply tooling along my 5-mile stretch, doing nothing that should have caused me to be pulled over. I was so upset I could hardly speak. I cracked my window, and when he said I should lower it more, I said, ‘Why, so you can shoot me through the window? I don't think so.’ So then he said he couldn't hear me, so I said, ‘I'll shout.’ I told him I was afraid for my life and he asked why. I said because you white policemen are murdering us. He told me a video and audiotape were being made of the stop, to which I responded, ‘Why, so you can lose it later?’ He finally explained he pulled me over because my registration had expired - which turned out to be true. I thought it was February but it's January. I've never been pulled over for that. How would he know? He couldn't have read those little stickers on my license plate from that far away. I figure he ran my plates because I was black - in other words, he was profiling. Anyway, he recited some prepared lines you could tell were for the video – like, have I done anything to frighten you? and did I tell you why I pulled you over? and so on - and eventually gave me my citation and a number to call if I wanted to lodge a complaint about how he handled himself, and he kept on going until I told him to leave me alone before I had a heart attack from fear - upon which he wanted to know if I needed him to call for assistance - at which point I'm practically crying and yelling, ‘Just go away.’ I felt utterly helpless. I couldn't think of anything to do to help myself. I kept thinking Sandra Bland was pulled over for a signal light and a few days later she was dead. I have an only child. I'm all he has. What if they killed me?

“Ten, twenty, even thirty years ago, I would not have feared for my life. Being arrested for nothing maybe, but not being murdered outright. According to the United Nations Human Rights Commission Working Group report, my son and I would be safer in my home country of Nigeria (provided we stayed out of Boko Haram's territory) than in the USA.‎”

White Friends are, of course, also sometimes stopped by the police. Unlike African-American Friends, however, white Friends can be pretty sure they were not stopped because of their race. They also do not need to wonder whether their race will make the officer so fearful or antagonistic that their lives are at risk.

Another "Hard Look at How We See Race" (March 2016)

This anecdote is from Jennifer Eberhardt, PhD, a professor at Stanford University (and an African-American), whose specialty is research on bias. It appears in “A Hard Look at How We See Race,” by Sam Scott, published in Utne Reader, Winter 2015, originally published in the September/October 2015 issue of Stanford Magazine.

“Eight years ago, she was flying back to California from Harvard, where her husband was teaching winter term, when the middle of their three sons pointed out a man he said looked like his dad.

“Eberhardt was bemused. The stranger was probably the only black male on the plane, but he was crowned with long dreadlocks, not exactly a ringer for her decidedly bald husband. But before she could quiz him for the connection, the 5-year-old added, ‘I hope he doesn’t rob the plane.’

“Even with her vast knowledge of the insidiousness of bias, Eberhardt was floored. Her son grew up in one of the most educated areas in the country, watched little television and hardly seemed to notice race. And yet he had connected blackness and crime and his father, the parent he was probably closer to at the time.

“ ‘He didn’t know why he said it. And he didn’t know why he thought it,’ she says. ‘But at 5, you already have what you need, to come to that conclusion.’”

"A Hard Look at How We See Race" (February 2016)

Research “shows subconscious connections in people’s minds between black faces and crime, and how those links may pervert justice; law enforcement officers across the country are taking note.” This article describes research by Jennifer Eberhardt, PhD, a professor at Stanford University (and an African-American), reactions to it, and its impact on providing training within law enforcement. Lorie Fridell, who was head of research for a law enforcement policy group in Washington, D.C., stated:

“Key to the training’s appeal is that it treats bias as a common human condition to be recognized and managed, rather than as a deeply offensive personal sin, an approach that makes cops less defensive. ‘They understand that it is a real issue with which they need to deal, but not because the profession is made up of ill-intentioned individuals with explicit biases (e.g., racists), but because the profession is comprised of humans.’”

From “A Hard Look at How We See Race,” by Sam Scott, published in Utne Reader, Winter 2015 (originally published in the September/October 2015 issue of Stanford Magazine)

Being in a White Garden (January 2016)

“Being in a white garden means that we hold the accumulation of centuries of wealth, power, and privilege. Some of us may come with personal trauma or gender, sexuality, or class struggles. However, race is the number one predictor of housing values, health outcomes, employment, educational success, and incarceration. We are the inheritors of tremendous power and privilege just because of our white garden-ness. Once we acknowledge this, many of our first feelings may be guilt, followed by shame, anger, and fear. To change we need to do the hard spiritual work of leaning into those uncomfortable feelings. These emotions are our tools. They are the hoe, shovel, and rake we need to clear out the unhealthy aspects of our privileged identities rooted in white supremacy and begin to replant a healthier garden. I thank God that my Friends of color put up with my racial ignorance and arrogance. As a community, we are not going to grow a more inclusive garden by sitting around in silence, waiting for more African Americans to walk in the door or our meetinghouses.”

From “Waking Up in the White Garden,” by Scott Holmes of Durham (NC) Meeting and professor of law at the North Carolina Central University School of Law, published in Friends Journal, October 2015, p. 6. Holmes uses the metaphor of a “white garden,” prompted by his walks through a section of the Duke Gardens where all the flowers are white.

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