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Thinking about Race

2021 Items

Being Born a Black Woman - (Summer 2021)

“If you have the privilege of being born a black woman, it is my belief that it is part of your divine mission to liberate yourself from all external and internalized oppression and thereby liberate the world.” - Ama Karikari-Yawson

Ama Karikari-Yawson is the Founder, President, and Principal of Milestales. She is the author of Sunne's Gift: How Sunne Overcame Bullying to Reclaim God’s Gift and Kwanzaa Nana Is Coming to Town.

Ms. Yawson earned a BA from Harvard University, an MBA from the Wharton School and a JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She is an attorney, author, publisher, entrepreneur and educator who gives workshops on various topics including bullying prevention, culturally empowering education, and entrepreneurship.

“The personhood of Whites … the burden of their bias.” - (June 2021)

“White people in America tend to assume, at a deep level, that America’s economic, governmental and legal systems are roughly fair. This, after all, is how people such as me generally experience them. And this allows for facile, sometimes unconscious, judgments. Because American systems seem fair, it must be individuals’ fault when they are poor, powerless or imprisoned.

“It is a failure of imagination that leads to the persistence of injustice. People for whom the system works have a hard time understanding the lasting, disastrous economic consequences of centuries of stolen labor, or the continuing legacy of disenfranchisement and voter suppression, or the fear generated by policing that targets and dehumanizes minorities.

“Focusing on such systemic injustice is not the recent result of ‘wokeness.’ It is unavoidable when a country’s treatment of some groups is dramatically at odds with its national ideals.

“So the accusation of systemic injustice is hardly new. But the reaction of civil rights leaders such as King was remarkable. Rather than judging America beyond hope, they loved it for what it might someday become: a multiracial society of equal justice and opportunity. Opposing racism was not only a method to confront injustice; it was also a way to help reclaim the personhood of Whites, who could finally lay down the burden of their bias.”

From “How to confront systemic racism? Heed the call of Martin Luther King,” by columnist Michael Gerson, Washington Post, April 22, 2021.

Ibram X. Kendi on “not racist” - (May 2021)

What’s the problem with being “not racist”? It is a claim that signifies neutrality. “I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.” But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist.” It is “antiracist.” What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an antiracist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an antiracist. One either allows racial inequalities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of “not racist.” The claim of “not racist” neutrality is a mask for racism.…[The] only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it—and then dismantle it.

From How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi, p. 9

from “me and white supremacy” - (April 2021)

“If your understanding of racism and white supremacy does not include a historical and modern-day contextual understanding of colonization, oppression, discrimination, neglect, and marginalization at the systemic level and not just the institutional level, then you are going to struggle when it comes to conversations about race. You will assume that what is being criticized is your skin color and your individual goodness as a person rather than your complicity in a system of oppression that is designed to benefit you at the expense of BIPOC in ways that you are not even aware of. This lack of understanding leads to white fragility, either by lashing out to defend your individual sense of goodness or feeling that you as an individual are being shamed for being who you are, thus leaving the conversation. This is a dangerous impediment to antiracism.”

Note: If the acronym BIPOC is new to you, it means Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

From me and white supremacy – Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor, by Layla F. Saad (2020), pp. 41-42.

Revolutionary Love - (March 2021)

In her book See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (2020), Valarie Kaur begins with some questions:

What if the story of America is one long labor?
Will we birth a nation that has never been – multiracial, multifaith, multicultural, multigendered, where power is shared, and we strive to protect the dignity of every person? Or will we continue to descend into a kind of civil war?
Will we marshal the vision, skill, and solidarity to solve… problems together?

Valarie Kaur tells her own story of moving into activism immediately after 9/11 and her richly inspiring journey since. She writes that Revolutionary Love is the call of our times. Revolutionary Love is labor for others, for our opponents, for ourselves, for our future. It is practiced in community and each of us has a role. She offers 10 core teachings—Wonder, Grieve, Fight (nonviolent action), Rage, Listen, Reimagine, Breathe, Push, Transition, and Joy.

In the chapter “Reimagine” she asks:
What is your vision for our world?
Which institutions need to be reformed? Which need to be dismantled and rebuilt?
What might your roles be in this labor of Revolutionary Love?

In a TED Talk, Kaur introduces her work. She founded the Revolutionary Love Project to collaborate with other activists to help ground our social justice work in the ethic of love.

From Zadie Smith’s Intimations - (February 2021)

Published in 2020, Intimations contains reflections “on what has happened—and what should come next.”

“6. Darren

“That prejudice is most dangerous not when it resides in individual hearts and minds but when it is preserved in systems. For example: an educational system that proves unable to see a boy as a child, seeing him only as a potential threat. That any child who enters such a prejudiced system will be in grave danger. Be he ever so beautiful and talented, inspired and inspirational, loving and love—he can still be broken.”

The endpage of the book states:

All the author’s royalties will go to charity.
This edition benefits:

The Equal Justice Initiative

The COVID-19
Emergency Relief Fund
for New York

A Justice Testimony - (January 2021)

In his recent Pendle Hill Pamphlet (#465), Race, Systemic Violence, and Retrospective Justice: An African-American Quaker Scholar-Activist Challenges Conventional Narratives, Harold D. Weaver, Jr., makes the case for “a more robust, active justice testimony.” Starting in 2008, through his ministry, the BlackQuaker Project, an Ad Hoc Working Group within New England Yearly Meeting took up this concern. They formulated these queries, which appear in the pamphlet (pp. 29-30):

  • Do we need a Justice testimony in the Religious Society of Friends? Why and how might a Justice testimony help Friends in our spiritual and temporal practices?
  • What does “justice” mean to Friends? How does our meeting respond to the need for justice?
  • If we disregard justice, what impact does it have on our spiritual lives and on our connection with the Divine?
  • What is the relationship between love and justice? Between living in the Spirit and seeking justice? If compassion is love in action, what is justice in action?
  • How does oppression dehumanize and dim the Light, both in oppressor and oppressed?

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