Friends General Conference

Nurturing faith and Quaker practice

Quakers and Privilege? What can we DO?

Workshop Number: 
Miriam Mulsow
Who may register?: 
Open to All (adult & high school)
Experiential Activities: 
full-time attenders only

Want to welcome diverse seekers but fear you'll offend? Join our circle to share stories of race and class. Learn how people experience small unintended wounds which cumulatively help sustain a culture where "race" matters. Come away with new awareness and skills to be co-creators of the inclusive beloved community.

Workshop Description

The purpose of this workshop is to give people who are at a beginning level of understanding issues of privilege and the barriers it creates a trusting environment in which to grow in their understanding of these issues.  I will include:

1.  exercises based on the excellent work of Peggy McIntosh to help participants relate to the concepts of privilege and oppression by applying them to their own lives

Participants pair up and each have several brief, uninterrupted periods to tell the other about a time in which they felt that something about them that they could not control caused them to be treated in a particular way.  Each will speak for a short time without comment or interruption by the other, then the second person will answer the same question without commenting on the first person's answer, and without comment or interruption from the first person.  These exercises help people to both understand the concepts we will be addressing and understand the life experiences of the other person with whom they are matched.  I will intentionally separate people who already know each other, and I will try to pair people who are likely to be as different as possible in their life experiences.       

2.  some role playing and other exercises in situations of micro-aggressions (little slights that cause damage when they occur repeatedly)

We will use situations that have actually occurred in Quaker settings to help the group work out the effects these types of things can have, how we might avoid these slights in the future, and how we might handle the situation when we realize that we may have done one of these things, ourselves or when we witness such a situation.  

3.  some role playing of when people felt particularly welcomed (so we are covering some of what TO do, not just what NOT to do)

Again using situations that have actually occurred, the group will address what we are already doing that works well and what others have done that has worked well.  I hope that participants will have stories of their own to share, but I will come prepared with stories to get us started, if they cannot think of any.

4.  some sharing of personal stories

I have found, in teaching this material, that people retain best what they have practiced relating to their own individual lives.  

5.  just a little bit of Quaker history and other factual information, but not enough to make eyes glaze over ;-)

This will be kept to a minimum, just enough to give some background to what we will be doing.  For example, yes Friends were involved in the Underground Railroad, but Friends were also slaveholders.  I will also provide handouts with some basic terminology and many links for where they can get more information and links to how they can get involved with this work within Friends.  

6.  worshipful silence each day to give Spirit the chance to do the most important part of the "teaching" that will occur.

Leader Experience

I have served as clerk for Meetings for Worship for Racial Healing and Listening Sessions in the People of Color center, and I have served as leader of an interest group for Friends with an interest in the White Privilege Conference.  I have helped to develop and served as co-leader of a "workshop?" on Microaggressions for Central Committee, along with Jean-Marie Barch.  I have served on the Transforming subcommittee for the past three years and have worked on issues of racial justice and understanding for all of that time.  I am a professor and teach Development in Cross Cultural Perspectives, an undergraduate class, as well as Family Strengths and Diversity, a graduate class.  Each of these classes addresses issues of privilege and how privilege creates barriers between us.  I have served as co-leader with Anne Collins for an SCYM workshop on these same issues, and I have served as a home group leader for SCYM.