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Thinking about Race

2018 Items

Witnessing Whiteness by Shelly Tochluk - (October 2018)

“…We might also stop to imagine when there might be moments when it is important to take a step back and ensure that others have space that does not include us.

“For example, William, an African American, spoke of his experience seeing groups of whites entering a situation that would have felt unapproachable to him had the situation been reversed:

“There is also a sense of privilege, a sense of entitlement. … you think about the Million Man March. This was a day of atonement, everybody asked, ‘Please let us just have this day for ourselves and this is something we need to do.’ Then you watch CNN or CSPAN … and you see some white people walking in there anyways.

“For William, although legally allowable, white people entering that space was inappropriate and can only be described as the enactment of privilege. Even if the white people’s intent was to show their support, we should wonder, did they ask whether or not the African Americans who planned and participated in the event desired the support? If we do not see that our everyday behavior often carries a sense of entitlement we will not ask questions about its effects. For this reason, just knowing that we need to ask the question is an important step.”

From Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How To Do It, by Shelly Tochluk, 2010, pp. 121-122. Tochluk, a researcher, counselor and teacher, trains educators to work with the diverse Los Angeles school population as an associate professor of education at Mount St. Mary’s College.

Witnessing Whiteness by Shelly Tochluk - (September 2018)

“As part of the dominant racial group in the United States, white people have generally not been either inspired or forced to question the ways that race has shaped our attitudes, beliefs, and actions. This limits our freedom. We don’t recognize our patterns, and therefore we are unable to decide whether or not these patterns are beneficial for our lives and relationships. Allowing a new vision to challenge ideas developed over the course of our lives is therefore a move toward personal liberation.” (pp. 113-114)

“Let me restate more clearly, the purpose of becoming better witnesses of whiteness is not to ingratiate ourselves with people of color. This is not about being redeemed or validated. Instead, people need to be clear that when we can witness whiteness present in our surroundings, we let people know that we can be a part of conversations that most white people generally avoid, defend against, or deny. We take a step forward in our individual and collective healing process by being more available for deep, honest dialogue. We enjoy a measure of freedom previously unavailable; we choose how to relate to our whiteness.” (pp 137-138).

From Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How To Do It, by Shelly Tochluk, 2010. Tochluk, a researcher, counselor and teacher, trains educators to work with the diverse Los Angeles school population as an associate professor of education at Mount St. Mary’s College.

New York Yearly Meeting’s EAQWER - (Summer 2018)

European-American Quakers Working to End Racism (EAQWER) is roughly equivalent within New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM) to the Working Group on Racism (WGR) within Baltimore Yearly Meeting. The WGR attempts to keep in touch with its peer groups in other Yearly Meetings. Following is a recent statement from EAQWER:

“1. With respect to gathering the Yearly Meeting into one body, EAQWER is called to support our community to acknowledge racial divisions and to heal them. We work to remove barriers to the full participation and inclusion of Friends of Color. We labor with ourselves and all European American Friends to overcome white privilege and internalized superiority patterns, so we too may be fully gathered into the Yearly Meeting.

“2. Our working group attempts to inform and inspire our community to witness for racial justice. We study the roots of racism and its current manifestations and dynamics. We then design projects and activities to support NYYM to speak out and act against racial oppression.”

Howard Thurman, “Jesus and the Disinherited” - (May 2018)

Thurman’s book Jesus and the Disinherited, first published in 1949, has chapters on “Fear,” “Deception,” and “Hate,” which he calls “the three hell-hounds…” This segment, from “Fear,” p. 35, resonates today:

“It is instructive to inquire into the effects of fear on the disadvantaged. Fear becomes acute, in the form of panic or rage, only at the moment when what has been threat becomes actual violence; but the mere anticipation of such an encounter is overwhelming simply because the odds are basically uneven. This fact is important to hold in mind. The disadvantaged man knows that in any conflict he must deal not only with the particular individual involved but also with the entire group, then or later. Even recourse to the arbitration of law tends to be avoided because of the fear that the interpretations of law will be biased on the side of the dominant group. The result is the dodging of all encounters. The effect is nothing short of disaster in the organism; for, studies show, fear actually causes chemical changes in the body, affecting the blood stream and the muscular reactions, preparing the body either for fight or for flight. If flight is resorted to, it merely serves as an incentive to one’s opponent to track down and overpower. Furthermore, not to fight back at the moment of descending violence is to be a coward, and to be deeply and profoundly humiliated in one’s own estimation and in that of one’s friends and family.”

“Get Out” - (April 2018)

“‘Get Out’ made these [Academy award] voters uncomfortable by showing that black people can be silenced, whether ignored, stereotyped or even, as happens in the movie, kidnapped. So those voters’ response was to attempt to silence the movie, which paradoxically proves one of its main points.

“Such willful ignorance isn’t unique to the Oscars, however. This kind of attitude is also partly to blame for the lack of progress for African-Americans in rates of homeownership, incarceration and employment over the past 50 years. The Economic Policy Institute recently released a study showing that the black homeownership rate stayed about the same from 1968 to 2015. But during that time, the black incarceration rate nearly tripled, and it’s now more than six times the white incarceration rate. And the unemployment rate among blacks is worse than in 1968, and now twice the rate of white unemployment.


“Many white Americans desperately want the “post-racial” idea to be real; they want to think the country has made progress. But given statistics that show discrimination is still hindering black economic progress, and the desire to keep the black condition invisible, it’s clear that we have to work harder on producing the improvement in black life too many Americans think already exists.”

From a March 8, 2018, op-ed in The New York Times, “Why Didn’t ‘Get Out’ Win Best Picure?” by Kashana Cauley, a television and freelance writer and a contributing opinion writer.

Service to the cause of racial equality - (February 2018)

“It does no service to the cause of racial equality for white people to content themselves with judging themselves to be nonracist. Few people outside the Klan or skinhead movements own up to all-out racism these days. White people must take the extra step – they must become anti-racist.”

-- Clarence Page, 1996

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