Skip to main content

Thinking about Race

2020 Items

Black Homeowners - (December 2020)

“Black homeowners face discrimination in appraisals” that can make it dramatically harder for them to buy, sell, or refinance a home, said Debra Kamin in The New York Times. The bias is so pervasive that some have turned to hiding their race from appraisers. Abena and Alex Horton in Jacksonville, Fla., were looking to refinance their four-bedroom, four-bathroom house in a mostly white neighborhood and expected it to appraise at about $450,000. It came in at just $330,000. When they asked to have it reappraised, Abena took down all the photos of her family; instead, the Hortons “hung up a series of oil paintings of Alex, who is white, and his grandparents that had been in storage.” The couple edited holiday postcards so “only those showing white families were left on display.” Then Abena left the house on the day of the appraisal. The new appraisal, for exactly the same house, was $465,000.

See Kamin’s full article at

Claudia Rankine, Just Us - (November 2020)

In “Claudia Rankine’s Quest for Racial Dialogue,” in the October Atlantic magazine, Ismail Muhammad reflects on Claudia Rankine’s new book, Just Us – An American Conversation.

“Rankine’s intent is not simply to expose or chastise whiteness. She has something more nuanced in mind: using conversation as a way to invite white people to consider how contingent their lives are upon the racial order—every bit as contingent as Black people’s are. ‘I was always aware that my value in our culture’s eyes is determined by my skin color first and foremost,’ she says. The same is true for white people, of course, however unaware of that reality they may be.”

This may prompt some queries for Quakers:

  • Am I aware that my value is, in our culture’s eyes, determined by my skin color first and foremost? If so, how, when, or where am I aware of this?
  • Am I aware that the value of a person of a different skin color than mine, is, in our culture’s eyes, determined by that skin color first and foremost? If so, how, when, or where am I aware of this?
  • What (if any) is the difference between these two awarenesses?

Cash Bail - (October 2020)

From “Criminal Conditions,” by Jan A. Fernandez, ACLU Magazine, Summer 2020, pp. 24-29.

“The United States has many distinguishing traits, but its most damaging distinction is that it imprisons the most people on Earth: 2.3 million, or nearly 35 percent of the world’s incarcerated population. Environmental, judicial, and institutional factors feed this unconscionable bloat, filling jails and prisons with people who can’t afford fines or bail while disproportionately punishing Black and Brown communities….

“Driving this national tragedy is an exploitative cash bail system that funnels hundreds of thousands of people into local jails. More than 70 percent of those incarcerated—about half a million people—are pretrial detainees who have not been convicted of any crime, and many are only there because they could not afford bail. It’s a profitable, prejudiced machine that targets poor people and people of color, who are jailed at higher rates and charged higher bail amounts.

“… Black and Latino men are on average assigned substantively higher amounts than white men for similar crimes—and those who cannot afford either land in jail. Trapped there, they are subject to a system that perpetuates negative outcomes: Defendants are four times more likely to be sentenced to prison if they spend their pretrial time in jail; they are more likely to take guilty plea deals for lesser charges to obtain release, even if they are innocent; they suffer the psychological trauma of being cut off from family and friends for weeks, months, or even years; they are exposed to violence, abuse, and poor health conditions; and they risk losing homes, jobs, and custody of their children.” [emphasis added]

“To support your state’s efforts toward rapid decarceration and an end to cash bail practices… visit”

White Supremacy Culture - (September 2020)

“Have you ever wondered how to characterize “white culture,” or if there is such a thing? This widely circulated paper by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun focuses on organizations – which can include faith groups. “White supremacy culture” refers to a culture where white people are mostly in charge and where white people are considered normal.

“This is a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture that show up in our organizations. Culture is powerful precisely because it is so present and at the same time so very difficult to name or identify. The characteristics listed below are damaging because they are used as norms and standards without being proactively named or chosen by the group. They are damaging because they promote white supremacy thinking. Because we all live in a white supremacy culture, these characteristics show up in the attitudes and behaviors of all of us – people of color and white people. Therefore, these attitudes and behaviors can show up in any group or organization, whether it is white-led or predominantly white or people of color-led or predominantly people of color.”

  1. Perfectionism
  2. Right to comfort
  3. Fear of open conflict
  4. Defensiveness
  5. Quantity over quality
  6. Worship of the written word
  7. Only one right way
  8. Paternalism
  9. Either/or thinking
  10. Power hoarding
  11. Individualism
  12. I’m the only one
  13. Progress is bigger, more
  14. Objectivity
  15. Sense of urgency

The paper contains descriptions of each of these 15 characteristics as well as “antidotes” to them. It is online at From Dismantling Racism: A Workbook Social Change Groups. The paper’s title is “The Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture,” by Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun, ChangeWork, 2001. Okun is now with the organization Dismantling Racism. This website has many other resources.

Smithsonian “Talking About Race” web portal - (Summer 2020)

The following is from an email that the NMAAHC sent out on June 1, 2020. It includes a portal with tools for people wanting to have conversations about race, racism, anti-racism, bias and more.

“From the recent racial altercation in Central Park to the deadly shooting of jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia; to acts of police brutality resulting in the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other African Americans; to the protests these deaths have provoked in cities around the country; the rash of racially charged incidents prompted the Museum to move up the release date of its powerful new web portal ‘Talking About Race.’

“ ‘Talking About Race’ provides digital tools, online exercises, video instructions, scholarly articles, and more than 100 multimedia resources tailored for educators, parents, and caregivers, as well as individuals committed to racial equality. In releasing this resource now, we hope to help individuals and communities foster constructive dialogues on one of the nation’s most challenging issues: racism, and its corrosive impact.

“Since opening the Museum, the number one question we are asked is how to talk about race, especially with children,” said Spencer Crew, NMAAHC interim director. “We recognize how difficult it is to start that conversation. But in a nation still struggling with the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and white supremacy, we must have these tough conversations if we have any hope of turning the page and healing. This new portal is a step in that direction.”

“The “We Are Not At-Risk” Campaign” - (June 2020)

“…AFSC’s Youth in Action (YIA) global network [is working] to change perceptions of youth in their respective communities. In 2018, YIA launched the ‘We Are Not At-Risk’ social-media campaign to transform the words and narrative we use to talk about youth in our everyday conversations: in schools, nonprofits, and other institutions; and in the media.

“‘Historically words have been used to oppress Black and brown people and help those in power maintain their power,’ says Nia Eubanks-Dixon, AFSC director of youth programs. ‘Today, words like ‘at-risk,’ ‘marginalized’ and ‘minority’ are used for the same purposes. Not only do these terms dehumanize youth, they shift blame to young people instead of to the oppressive racist systems that exploit them, their families, and communities.’

“The ‘We Are Not At-Risk’ campaign was created to call out and change those linguistic behaviors, urging people to take a pledge to rethink their words, attend local education events, and share what they’ve learned with others.”

From the American Friends Service Committee’s Quaker Action, Spring 2020, “The power of words,” by Ronna Bolante, pp. 12-13.

“The Hidden History of Slavery” - (May 2020)

From an interview with Anne C. Bailey by Adeel Hassan in the New York Times, February 29, 2020

Why does it matter so much to preserve these [slave auction] sites, many of which have already been built over?

If in 2020, we agree that all lives matter, then all lives mattered then, too, so we should find a way to demonstrate that. One way is to democratize our landscape. At present, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are over 1,800 Confederate monuments and memorials; at the same time we have found fewer than 50 marked auction sites.

If we are a nation committed to justice and a sense of fairness, this should bother us. We ought to balance the scales and acknowledge what these people endured yet still contributed to this country.

If we are a nation committed to justice and a sense of fairness, this should bother us. We ought to balance the scales and acknowledge what these people endured yet still contributed to this country.

Adeel Hassan interviewed Ann C. Bailey, Professor of History at Binghamton University, who wrote a New York Times Magazine article, “The Sold Human Beings Here,” part of the Times’ The 1619 Project. Hassan’s interview with Bailey appeared on February 29, 2020, entitled “The Hidden History of Slavery That Surrounds us.”

Inclusive Quakers - (April 2020)

“I adore silence. However, as a Black woman, I am aware that for Black, Indigenous, and communities of color (among other marginalized groups), silence has been a form of oppression that cuts us off from sharing our voice and agency and more. A reframe for those quiet meetings would require us to explore questions about speech and silence. How do we teach about vocal ministry? What messages about silence and speech do we send to seasoned Friends and newcomers.? How might silence inadvertently encourage greater distance among Friends? What is the right balance?

“…Even as we gather for meeting for worship and offer Spirit-led vocal ministry, this too is within a broader societal context of structures, systems, and institutions that further oppression and racialization.

“A reframe for Quakers would be to take a deeper exploration of our good intentions. How do our intentions affect others, either intentionally or unintentionally? How might we look deeper at our intentions and align them with our actions? When might our intentions not align with our values? What do we do individually and as a corporate body when this happens? How might our good intentions further support our implicit bias?”

From “How to Be an Inclusive Quaker: The Unwritten Norms of Speech and Silence,” by Valerie Brown, in March 2020 Friends Journal, pp. 18- 20. Readers of Friends Journal may well have recently read these words. Along with the whole article, they are worth considering as Baltimore Yearly Meeting Friends strive to ensure that we are an anti-racist faith community.

Seneca Village and Central Park - (February 2020)

From a New York Times Opinion piece by Brent Staples, a member of the NYT Editorial Board, about the destruction in the 1850s of Seneca Village. It was “Manhattan’s first significant settlement of black property owners and the epicenter of black political power in Manhattan during the mid-19th century. The village occupied land along what is now Central Park’s western edge, between roughly 83rd and 89th Streets.” (

“New Yorkers who grew up with the fiction that slavery was limited to the South learned otherwise in 1991, when construction in Lower Manhattan unearthed hundreds of skeletons from a forgotten colonial-era cemetery that had served as the resting place of 15,000 Africans. The burial site, known since 2006 as the African Burial Ground National Monument, underscored the fact that New York City in the late 18th century was an epicenter of the slave trade, holding more Africans in chains than any other city in the country, with the possible exception of Charleston, SC.

“New York City’s addiction to the immediate fruits of slave labor—and to the profits that it reaped from servicing the business needs of the South—made for a slow and tortured path to emancipation there. … New York [was] one of the last Northern states to abolish slavery.

“By this time [1817], white New York had taken steps to cripple African-Americans politically and economically. Black men had largely been banished from lucrative skill trades and relegated to subsistence jobs. To short-circuit black political empowerment, the State Legislature made voting rights for black men contingent upon ownership of property valued at $250 or more — even as it rolled back the property ownership requirement for white men. As a result, only 16 black men in Manhattan had the right to vote.”

Elijah Cummings’ “A Letter to My Father” - (January 2020)

Early in Elijah Cummings’ congressional service, he wrote a letter to his father, Robert Cummings, thanking him for all that he had done for him. In 1996 or 1997, he asked for and received his father’s permission to publish that letter in the Baltimore AFRO American newspaper. It was reprinted in the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2019, issue; this is an excerpt.

“You created over and over again positive visions for us. You refused to allow us to be limited to a few square blocks of Baltimore….

“I also thank you for your consistent efforts to protect us from a cruel world. Every time you would come home after working very long hours as a laborer at Davison Chemical, you would sit in the car in front of the house for at least an hour. Whether it was 20 degrees or 95 degrees, you sat there in the car quietly. We all knew not to disturb you.

“When you got out of the car you displayed a calm and gentle smile. Some years later I asked you why was it that you always sat in the car before coming into the house. You responded by telling me that at work you were often treated badly, discriminated against, and called everything but a child of God. You said that your anger would be so great that you felt a need to calm down so that your family would not become victimized by your anger.

“I thank you for teaching us to give of our time and resources to make the world a better place to live. As children we watched as you constantly helped people in our neighborhood.”

Powered by Firespring