FGC’s Anti-Racism Ministry: April 2020 Update

In this month’s update, Vanessa and Olivia extend an invitation to worship for Friends of Color, and Marta talks about why now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, is the time to check your privilege.

An Invitation to Worship, for Friends of Color

By Vanessa Julye and Olivia Pandolfi

In 2018, Friends General Conference began hosting virtual worships for People of Color. FGC established this practice as a result of a request by Friends of Color who participated in a retreat that summer. During that weekend Friends of Color expressed their pain of feeling oppressed in their meeting which caused them to stop attending. These Friends were clear that Quakerism and worship was core to their lives and wanted an opportunity to continue to worship in community. FGC agreed to support these Friends with providing monthly virtual worships on Zoom. These worships are provided as a place for Friends of Color to come together in community and worship in an environment with Friends who experience marginalization in their lives and Quaker meetings because they are a person of Color.

During this time of the global COVID-19 pandemic, FGC has agreed to offer these virtual worships on a weekly basis. The weekly virtual worships will be held on Wednesdays at 1:00 PM EDT/12:00 PM CDT/ 11:00 AM MDT/10:00 AM PDT. These weekly worships will be in addition to the already-scheduled monthly meetings for worship, which happen on the third Sunday of each month at 8:00 PM EDT/7:00 PM CDT/6:00 PM MDT/5:00 PM PDT.

If you identify as a person of Color and would like to join us for our worship, please complete the form here.

When It Comes to COVID-19, It’s Time to Check Your Privilege

By Marta Rusek

As many of us grieve the loss of social engagements and going to our favorite places to eat, there are a whole lot of people who are waking up to the uncomfortable reality that so much of what we thought was non-negotiable and “just the way things are” was really a construct of white privilege. What do I mean by this? I’m glad you asked. 

For years, students and workers living with disabilites were told by educational institutions and employers that completing their coursework online or working remotely from home just wasn’t an option. Now that there’s a public health crisis that could endanger the lives of so many (healthy, non-disabled) people, remote learning and working has become universally adopted and embraced. Many Quaker meetings are also moving towards online Meeting for Worship, because the prospect of losing a vital aspect of our community was too great. Yet the same urgency and desire to keep everyone connected was not as prevelant before COVID-19. Friends who lived hours away from the nearest Quaker meeting or couldn’t come to social gatherings as the result of a disability or compromised immune system were left out or encouraged to Google online worship on their own. 

Now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the differently-abled community are facing new restrictions in the form of rationed medical and perscription access. I’ve read reports of hospitals and health centers overseas that prioritized treatment for younger and relatively healthy patients that were deemed more likely to benefit from medical intervention, while older patients and individuals with pre-existing conditions (including disabilites) were denied care. Last week, a patient with Lupus was told her prescription would not be filled because patients who were critically ill with COVID-19 needed it more urgently, but was thanked for her “sacrifice” (I wish I was making that last part up). White privilege is what creates hiearchies of who gets treatment and who is expected sacrifice. It keeps the most vulnerable from getting the treatment they need to protect themselves from contracting the COVID-19 virus. 

At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves, “Who is being harmed the most by COVID-19?” It’s not just community members with pre-existing conditions or disabilities who are refused treatment and medicine, or friends of Asian descent who endure harassment and violence due to xenophobia and sinophobia. It’s also workers in the service and hospitality industries (many of whom are black and brown) who have been laid off due to the cancellation of events and restaurant closures in the name of flattening the curve. It’s also straight, cisgender women who are expected to look after their children while schools are shut down so their male partners can work more effectively from home. It’s also survivors of abuse who now have to stay isolated at home with abusive partners. It’s also people who have been practicing social distancing long before it mandated because they never fit in with the notion of “normal,” which is usually code for “white.”

So the next time you feel yourself start to say, “I can’t wait until this is all over and things can go back to normal,” remember that “normal” is a construct created by white privlege. The sooner we realize that this construct is destroying peoples’ lives and livelihoods, the more likely we are to work toward creating better systems, where everyone is valued and has access to what they need to live. 

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