Living into FGC’s commitment to become an anti-racist faith community, the Gathering’s Workshop Committee co-clerks and Conference Coordinator want to share about what we have done and a stumble we made along the way. This incident reminded us that there is lots of work to be done in terms of supporting both Friends of Color and white Friends in anti-racism. We need to make space for the messy to happen and allow ourselves to be imperfect while doing the work. A key part of the work is acknowledging when mistakes are made and making space to process those mistakes in the moment.
Here is what happened:
This year we decided to host two anti-racism trainings geared towards white workshop leaders. During the second training on microaggressions, a participant asked a question that centered white experiences. A facilitator skillfully interrupted this question, mentioning that we can also talk about those issues, but the focus of this workshop was anti-racism so we should stay focused on that topic. Friends in the room moved on.
During our transition to closing, the facilitators were checking in with each other via private chat in Zoom and one of them accidentally replied to everyone making a public comment that was hurtful to some. One facilitator commented in the chat that the comment was public, but the facilitating and coordinating team did not pause to acknowledge that something had happened. Instead we continued to close with worship and let people leave.
When the facilitators and coordinators met to debrief, it became clear that what occurred was a microaggression. We sent an apology to all workshop leaders explaining how we wish we had responded and how we would acknowledge the situation if the same group was meeting again. We also held a follow-up meeting with the people involved (the person who asked a question and the person who made the comment in the chat) so they could talk about their experiences and learn from each other. In their time together they heard each other’s pain and found a space of mutual resolution. The coordinating team invited comments from others who were impacted or hurt. We are focusing our time on listening to personal impact and not people’s perceptions of what the impact on others may have been.
We hope our sharing about this experience will be useful to Friends.
Rebecca Cole Sullivan, Co-Clerk, Workshops Committee
Karen Snare, Co-Clerk, Workshops Committee
Lori Sinitzky, Conference Coordinator
Note: This letter was first shared as the June/July 2021 Anti-Racism Ministry Update in FGC's Vital Friends eNewsletter.