Friends General Conference

Nurturing faith and Quaker practice

Joan Broadfield: Recognizing White Privilege – A Prose Poem

Recognizing white privilege                                        

Reflection upon return from WPC, Joan G Broadfield, 2013

It’s about breathing, remembering, responding to the past devastations…
          slavery: its brutality, inhumanity, cruelty
          imperialist conquest: its presumptions, wars.. brutality..

It’s about reframing old information
          to recognize the mindset of power and remember the motive of conquest
          to discover the other side of stories of  native peoples, of land destruction:
                    wages of land conquest – railroads, farming,  mining

It’s about learning new stories in the history never learned
         about the way Japanese were herded toward new encampments
                   when they were suddenly enemy in 1942
                   and Germans were not
         about how Lincoln ordered indigenous families in Minnesota slaughtered
                   where the airport now is, unheralded…never mentioned

It’s about understanding how many stories we do not know,
          And remembering how we learned the stories of conquest as times of joy and pride
          Considering how our conversations do not acknowledge power around us today or yesterday
                   Not thinking how we give power today with our dollars, our allegiance
          Resolving more openness to new frames of history, not denial, not turning away
          Learning about internalized oppressions: lessons learned that restrict facing hard assessments

(I think of white internalized superiority as an oppression which oppresses both whites and others)

It’s about being tender at the intersections
          of race and class, places where there are more lessons to learn about oppression

Learning about white privilege is about accepting some responsibility
                   to respond in new ways, to breathe, to listen

It’s about doing the seeming impossible: to help deinstitutionalize, deconstruct, de-organize
           the organized way power continues to show up and slaughter…  maim….
                   in corporate jails, dysfunctioning schools, destructive employment practices
                   in methodologies that blame cultures, uphold hierarchy, reward the top
         the well-meaning who work toward outcomes in diversity trainings
                            that do not have as their intention to dismantle the institutionalized  practices
                                     that keep the system in its place –
                                              and render their work …..
                                                                                  worthless?....
It’s about knowing we cannot all do the same thing at the same time,
                   but we can all do something in our lives
                            and make room for more as we go step by step together

And it is about moving forward in ways that affirm, strengthen the capacity to work together
                   to build the circle, to collaborate, to resist the pulls of ego, self centered energy,
                                              endless denial, turning away
                   while also focusing on expanding self and reframing ego, paradoxically…

It’s about more than trying and intention…  
It is about commitment, resolve.