Quaker Discussion During WPC15 Accountability Session
WPC has committed to becoming a “community of action” with the goal that every participant will take their conference learning beyond the walls of the program classrooms and back into our own home environments by way of meaningful action. To do this, each conference program of the WPC ultimately has an intentional action component. Our goal is to weave accountability programs and processes throughout the conference itself, and offers a variety of workshops with a very explicit action and accountability focus. Some members of the Quaker community at WPC15 in Madison took this time to hold a “Quaker Accountability Session” in the Quaker Hospitality Room.
ACTION PLANNING & POSSIBILITIES FOR OUR QUAKER MEETINGS
Compiled at the White Privilege Conference WPC15 in Madison, Wisconsin
28 Third Month 2014
During the WPC session dedicated to “planning and accountability,” we gathered to focus our time on considering two questions:
- What has worked or is currently working in our monthly meetings to address issues of race, racism, and privilege?
- After hearing our first considerations of successes, what are some new possibilities that we are now aware of?
|WHAT’s WORKED / What’s working in our monthly meetings
Cannon Valley Friends
- Cannon Valley supported three Friends to attend WPC15.
- The meeting has recently welcomed a family that has members of different racial backgrounds.
Madison Friends Meeting
- There were 2-3 vocal Friends who spoke frequently about racism and White privilege. A reading group was initiated.
- The library has been expanding to include books about White privilege.
- Madison Meeting is involved in a statewide faith-based coalition called WISDOM (MOSES is Madison’s chapter). This faith-based coalition advocates for changes in state law about prison and people who are incarcerated. By being involved with WISDOM/MOSES, Friends have become more literate about the issues and new relationships have been formed.
- Madison Meeting is involved in WisFAN, described as being like a state version of Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)
- There is a Breaking Barriers project, and individual Friends work with young African American men who are returning into the community from prison. The meeting realized it has resources to help Breaking Barriers—such as computer skills, bookkeeping, etc., not just financial resources.
- The meeting is also involved with Madison Urban Ministry, which also deals with and has a relationship with the local African American community.
- There are lots of forums and adult education sessions on prison and mass incarceration.
- Being aware of our Whiteness can help.
- Milwaukee Meeting has a standing committee called the Bridges Committee. It’s a focal point for work to address race/racism. It emerged after the meeting’s Peace & Social Justice Committee was laid down. Part of its work has helped make Milwaukee Meeting a regular Quaker presence at Milwaukee’s Juneteenth Day for the past 4-5 years.
- Milwaukee Meeting prepares a regular meal for a local homeless shelter, Casa Maria. It’s been doing so consistently for 30 years.
- The meeting has an active Prison Visitation Committee, traveling to Waupun, Wisconsin. Over time, this visitation has evolved to include corresponding with incarcerated people, especially those who have been transferred out of state.
- Like Madison Meeting, Milwaukee Meeting is a member of MICAH, a faith-based organization that has leadership from local African American churches, as well as from the Jewish and Muslim community. Milwaukee Meeting representatives to MICAH bring regular reports back to the meeting. Milwaukee Meeting has become very active in specific action around raising the minimum wage as a result of being part of MICAH. (MICAH focuses on a number of issues–housing, mass incarceration, education; living wage campaign.)
- Like other meetings, Milwaukee Meeting organized itself to promote the WPC and to help register people through FGC.
- Adult religious education sessions have included speakers to talk about issues related to race, racism, and Whiteness. (ex. the African Great Lakes Initiative; promoting a living wage; a local professor came to talk about Whiteness)
1. Book groups in which many Friends participated (eg reading together Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship)
2. Meeting hired a consultation group for three workshops over nine months on facing White privilege. This led to an initiative to establish a self-selected group of Friends to move the issue forward into collective action. So the level of consciousness about the issues of racism and White privilege was raised among Friends in the meeting.
3. Monthly adult education sessions were held to share about racial justice experiences. The series of speakers lasted a few months.
Mountainview Friends Meeting
- Workshop series about racism/white privilege. It was held one Saturday a month for about five months and included films, readings, speakers, etc.
- Having “speak-outs” during which individual Friends *who have felt unwelcome* speak from their experience about feeling distanced or how they were made to feel unwelcome by the meeting.
- Monthly White Privilege Accountability & Support group. This has a drop-in format: “it works and doesn’t work”
- Currently, Mountainview Friends have a “One Book One Meeting” initiative. The Meeting identifies a book for middle-schoolers and up, including adults, to read together.
ex. My Mother the Cheerleader (takes place in the 1960s in New Orleans; the mom is White)
Twin Cities Friends
- Several Friends from the meeting attended Beyond Diversity 101 that the yearly meeting had sponsored at the time (Northern Yearly Meeting). There was ongoing group that met locally for a while, raising the group’s consciousness about White privilege, racism, etc.
- When the meeting has had regular attenders who are members of a minority/minoritized* group, there has been an increase in awareness around oppression and privilege.
- There have been programs (eg adult education sessions) about WPC, FWCC, etc. after Friends from the meeting have returned from those experiences.
- There currently is a White privilege study group that meets monthly. Often there is an assigned topic, and discussion ranges from considering very abstract ideas to sharing personal and direct experiences. This group hosted a discussion—open to Quakers and friends of Friends—to talk about the film 12 Years A Slave. The group is preparing to host another discussion, more focused on Whiteness.
- The meeting’s Peace & Community Involvement Committee looks for projects and supports new work that emerges from within the meeting. The committee is supporting the upcoming discussion on Whiteness, hosted by the White privilege study group.
- Adult Education sessions (aka Friends Forums) have had speakers from particular local organizations that work with and within communities of color. Some of those speakers have sparked more interest in the meeting, at least for a while.
Strawberry Creek Meeting (Berkeley CA)
- The meeting hosted a group for White attenders/members to share when and how Friends became aware of race. There is an annual retreat where reports can be shared about the topic.
- Adult education programs about race/racism/Whiteness, etc.
- There are some First Day School activities to build relationships with parents of color whose children of color are in FDS.
|POSSIBILITIES we can consider, now that we know what has worked
*The recorder added the word “minoritized” based on a comments made by a WPC15 workshop presenter of color, Mike Benitez. He talked about the importance of using language that makes visible the process that “minoritizes” (similar to “racializes”) groups of people who are otherwise simply identified as “minorities.” By making the noun “minority” into a verb—minoritize—Mike shows that there is action taken by the dominant or privileged group: it is not a passive or unintentional process.
- CONNECTION WITH FAITH-BASED ORGANIZATIONS WORKING FOR JUSTICE. For Quaker meetings in the Twin Cities area , there is the faith-based social justice organization ISAIAH. Meetings can talk with and learn from Madison and Milwaukee Meetings about similar meeting-wide relationships they have with larger faith-based organizations. (ISAIAH is affiliated with PICO; WISDOM and MICAH are affiliated with Gamaliel.)
- EXPLORE WHO IN OUR MEETINGS HAVE A REAL SENSE OF URGENCY ABOUT, and/or a personal stake in, SPECIFIC JUSTICE ISSUES. (eg. prison work; living wage; educational disparities; land return; etc)
- FIND SOMETHING SPECIFIC AND LOCAL TO FOCUS ON, SO OUR MEETINGS CAN RESPOND TO “OUR OWN CIRCUMSTANCES.” Large abstract issues can overwhelm us and immobilize us, increasing our sense of despair rather than hope and inspiration. How might our meetings, as individual meetings, begin to address “our own circumstances”; how do we start that conversation “at home”? Are our actions functioning out of a racist/White privileged mindset?
- DO A HONEST, HUMBLE MEETING-WIDE INVENTORY. What barriers (e.g. attitudes, behaviors, processes) are there to people of different backgrounds to be made to feel welcome and accepted into the meeting’s community? Can we look at what prevents us collectively from wanting to be part of events and organizations and communities beyond our own meeting? How do we welcome vulnerability without triggering and/or while moving through guilt or a sense of inadequacy?
- FIND (or make?) OPPORTUNITIES FOR WHITE FRIENDS TO GO OUT INTO COMMUNITIES OF COLOR IN MEANINGFUL WAYS. Learn about local communities of color, their activities, what issues they care about, and what sort of support they need.
- FIND (or make?) OPPORTUNITIES TO RAISE THE AWARENESS/CONSCIOUSNESS ABOUT WHITENESS, WHITE PRIVILEGE, etc. FOR WHITE FRIENDS. Then connect the increased awareness to evaluating community-based activities and the choices Friends make as to whether or not to participate in them. (eg Adult Education sessions and other forums on Whiteness, power, privilege)
- EXPERIMENT WITH DIFFERENT WAYS TO CREATE A GROUP THAT FOCUSES ON RACE/RACISM/WHITE PRIVILEGE. Should the group be “Invitation only” or by self-selection? Should it be a drop-in group or a group that commits to a certain period of time or number of sessions?
- CREATE SPACES WHERE WHITE FRIENDS CAN SHARE WITH THE MEETING THEIR PERSONAL STORIES ABOUT HOW/WHY THEY EACH BECAME INVOLVED IN RACIAL JUSTICE. Stories might include experiences at Beyond Diversity 101, the White Privilege Conference, personal relationships with people/communities of color, etc.
- EXPLORE CREATING MEANINGFUL PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH COMMUNITIES OF COLOR THROUGH A VARIETY OF EXPERIENCES AND ACTIVITIES. Partner with a sister church? Come together on housing issues?
- EXPLORE HOW TO VIEW A TOPIC THAT SEEMS TO ENERGIZE THE MEETING WITH A RACIAL JUSTICE FRAME OR LENS. How do we connect with one another and keep racial justice alive at the same time: Can we do “street theater” in our meetings to stir the pot?
- PULL IN NON-QUAKER CONSULTANTS AND OTHER RESOURCES TO HELP ADDRESS OUR QUESTIONS. Heather Hackman is a trainer at WPC and lives in Minnesota.
- CONSIDER MOVING FROM THE ABSTRACT OR BIG, BROAD ISSUES TO A SPECIFIC OR NARROWER ONE. There are at least two types of meeting-wide “campaigns” to focus energy on: (1) Implementing vehicles to offer conversations that raise consciousness. (2) Building relationships outside of Meeting with communities/organizations that are already doing justice work.
- BREAK THE UNSPOKEN MYTH THAT SAYS, “SINCE WE HAVE A GROUP (OR AN ACTIVE INDIVIDUAL) ALREADY WORKING ON THIS, WE DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING AS A MEETING or as individuals.” Dismantling racism and making Whiteness conscious is work that is in everything, so all committees of our monthly and yearly meetings should view its work through the lens of race/privilege.
- DO OUR INTERNAL CORPORATE WORK AS A MEETING BEFORE WE GET INVOLVED IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR. Talk about all of our identities and the privileges we have as a result. Change the narrative. For example, have the starting question be about IDENTITY, not about only racial justice/racism.
- PLAN TO HAVE INDIVIDUALS FROM COMMUNITIES OF COLOR INVOLVED FROM THE START OF ANY ALLIANCE BUILDING. For example, take time to learn directly from communities of color about how *they* see and experience the issue; how it impacts *them,* and how White Quakers might be able to support *their* work. (more of a listening mode).
- PRACTICE HUMILITY. Listen to communities of color in order to *learn,* not in order to “fix” or share our “expertise,” and not in order to “prove” that Quakers aren’t racist.
- INREACH AROUND ISSUES OF RACE, RACISM, AND PRIVILEGE. Strengthen relationships within the meeting and with each other to deepen/strengthen our connections so we can move forward together in the struggle to dismantle systemic racism.
- CREATE ‘INCLUSION TEAMS’ IN OUR MEETINGS. These teams would function like a committee but with an eye toward looking at what barriers to inclusion exist in the meeting, how they got put into place, how to remove/transform them, etc. (The concept of Inclusion Teams comes from a Creating Social Justice in Organizations resource)
- PRAY. Hold in prayer the weighty questions we have as to how to go about this work, how to move forward, what to bring to Meetings for Worship for Business, etc.
- CHALLENGE/REQUEST ALL OF OUR COMMITTEES TO CONSIDER EQUITY IN OUR WORK.
- USE AN ‘EMAIL BARRAGE’ TO THE MEETING OR FREQUENTLY PUBLISH SNIPPETS IN OUR NEWSLETTERS TO KEEP THE CONCERN ALIVE.
- LEARN ABOUT THE INTERSECTION OF RACE AND CLASS.
- EXPLORE TOGETHER WHAT THE SOCIALIZATION PROCESS LOOKS LIKE AND SOUNDS LIKE (eg How do White people learn that they are White?).
- EXPLORE AND LEARN HOW TO SOCIALIZE OUR CHILDREN AND YOUTH TO BE AWARE OF PRIVILEGE BASED ON SKIN COLOR. How do we socialize our kids to be anti-racist as they grow up?
- EXPLORE HOW OUR QUAKER PROCESSES AND BUSINESS/COMMITTEE PROCESS ARE SET UP TO DRAW ON WHITE MIDDLE CLASS IDEALS. Consider our collective tolerance (or lack thereof) for certain types of emotion and expression of emotion; our expectations around turn-taking; etc. Explore what behaviors and structures might be more welcoming to historically oppressed groups.
- MAKE EXPLICIT THE WHITE MIDDLE CLASS NORMS THAT WE OPERATE FROM, ESPECIALLY DURING BUSINESS SESSIONS. Get accustomed to seeing, questioning, and naming the behaviors that impose previously unexamined standards of Whiteness and the middle class onto visitors and worshipers among us who might not naturally conform to those standards—or who have been traumatized by being forced or coerced to conform.
- EXPLORE HOW YOUR MEETING PERPETUATES A CERTAIN FORM OR STYLE OF LEADERSHIP, ALONG WITH “POWER OF THE PURSE.” Does it need changing?
- LEARN ABOUT AND CONNECT WITH THE ANTI-RACISM WORK THAT IS GOING ON INSTITUTIONALLY AT THE AMERICAN FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE. How did they get “buy in” from the staff? How are they engaging local Quakers in the work?
- BECOME RESPONSIBLE AND ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR OWN INDIVIDUAL LEARNING ABOUT A CONCEPT, ISSUE, HISTORICAL EVENT, etc. THAT HAS TO DO WITH RACE/RACISM/PRIVILEGE. Take one new thing you’ve learned; explore it more deeply and reflect on it. Have a forum for individual Friends to share what they’ve learned. Identify what else to look into.