Racism and Whiteness
Our hearts are broken as the fault lines of racism continue to be starkly exposed in the violence that ended the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and uncounted numbers of African Americans, not only in recent years but since Africans were first brought to this country as enslaved people.
We continue to live with this poisonous legacy which manifests itself in white supremacy, institutional racism, and oppression. Over generations, white supremacy has shaped our public policies, causing injustice in our institutions and racial bias that in its mildest forms taints daily life for people with brown and black skin. As we were reminded this month, white supremacy continues to kill African Americans in cold blood almost with impunity. We understand that the occupation of our urban communities and militarized policing is one part of protecting “whiteness” in our society.
We reject the president’s call for an occupation by the U.S. military of the streets of our communities to suppress legitimate protests guaranteed by the U.S. constitution. Law and order have for too long been used as a cover for racist oppression and slavery. This needs to stop.
But we cannot address the racism and white privilege in our society without addressing the systems of oppression—in policing, in healthcare, in the justice system or in access to quality education. The fault lines of whiteness that make true equality in our society a lie run deep and touch every one of us.
We have seen the fault lines in the disproportionate deaths from COVID-19 in the African American community. We have seen the fault lines in the destructiveness of police brutality of our African American siblings. Until everyone in this country, particularly white people, dedicate themselves to radically address racial inequality, we will remain a broken society.
As we stand with protesters throughout the country calling for radical social transformation, we affirm that Black Lives Matter. We know that those of us who are white must confront racism in ourselves and in the institutions we care about—our faith communities, our schools, our neighborhoods, our families, our Congress.
We stubbornly remain hopeful that we can change policies that perpetuate racist structures and build a society with equity and justice for all.
Racism and Whiteness By Diane Randall, General Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), June 1, 2020
We Won’t Stop Until We Dismantle the Whole Racist System
George Floyd should be alive today. So should Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many other people killed by police in the United States of America. The fact that they are not alive now is a testament to the deep need for change.
The U.S. was founded on slavery and genocide and has yet to fully reckon with that tragic legacy. A good place to start is by identifying and uprooting the system of white supremacy that devalues Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous lives. As a Quaker organization, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is inspired by the fundamental truth that there is human dignity in every single person. In order to live those values, we need to change our economies, schools, health care systems, and every institution in our society.
Perhaps no institutions play a more crucial role in upholding white supremacy today than the police and the criminal legal system. In cities and counties across the country, police encounters end the lives of people of color and trans and gender nonconforming people. The pattern is well-documented and indisputable. It is tragic. And it clearly has no place in our society or any society that values life and freedom.
In communities across the country, we witness how police harass, cage, and kill people with impunity. We see our loved ones and community members—disproportionately Black and Brown people—growing old and dying behind bars because of unjust sentencing policies. Our demand for real and lasting change will not be satisfied if one or a few perpetrators are held accountable in our broken criminal legal system, because the real perpetrator is the system itself.
An institution that justifies brutality and racism cannot be tolerated. Our failure to directly confront the brutality of the system has led to a president and an administration openly inciting police violence, threatening military force against protesters, and repeatedly using racist language and enacting racist policies. We need to work in solidarity to address the sickness of white supremacy – and all systems of oppression—in our society. We need our government and leaders in all walks of life to work quickly and conscientiously toward racial justice and equity, not continue to divide us or try to stifle voices who call for change.
In 2016, AFSC signed onto the Movement for Black Lives Platform. Now, four years later, we recommit ourselves to the struggle for equity and justice.
- We won’t stop until… our local, state, and federal governments stop investing in police and incarceration and instead invest in education, health care, and transformative forms of justice that are centered in community and address the root causes of harm.
- We won’t stop until… our leaders are reflective of the communities they serve, and work for substantive inclusion rather than dividing us by race, nationality, religion, class, sexuality, or gender identity.
- We won’t stop until… Congress offers proper reparations for the generations of trauma and deprivation imposed by slavery, genocide, segregation, and ongoing systemic racism.
- We won’t stop until… our leaders mobilize quickly to protect public health—not to suppress protest using police in riot gear, the National Guard, or the military.
- We won’t stop until… communities have the power to determine for themselves what systemic change in our society can look like.
- We won’t stop until institutions built on the bedrock of white supremacy have been dismantled or fundamentally transformed. We will work to rebuild our society based on the concepts of respect, equity, and human dignity, so that everyone can live in safety and peace.
And we will not do it alone.
In the past week, we have received messages of support and expressions of solidarity from every corner of the world. From Latin America, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe to communities across the U.S., people are standing and kneeling together, linking struggles for liberation and justice. Our hearts swell to see this outpouring of global solidarity. It is a beacon of hope.
AFSC stands with those who have taken to the streets to lift up the cry for justice. We stand with those who are behind the scenes making phone calls, providing childcare, offering legal support, and participating in mutual aid efforts. We stand with those behind bars who are still finding ways to lend their voices and actions to this struggle. We honor these courageous actions as important and necessary for building a changed world.
Together, we will win. We won’t stop until we do.
We Won’t Stop Until We Dismantle the Whole Racist System. In this moment of truth, we cannot lose focus on what’s important: Black Lives Matter. American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Jun 4, 2020
Resources from the American Friends Service Committee
We won’t stop until we dismantle the whole racist system: In this moment of truth, we cannot lose focus on what’s important: Black Lives Matter. As a Quaker organization, AFSC is committed to working in solidarity with communities to end white supremacy and uphold the human dignity in of every person.
6 reasons why we must defund the police: U.S. cities collectively spend $100 billion a year on policing, while investments in education, health care, housing, and other critical programs go underfunded, particularly in poor communities and communities of color, writes AFSC’s Mary Zerkel.
We need to stand up for protesters—and say NO to Trump’s militarized response: These tactics are the result of a decades-long escalation in the domestic use of militarized tactics and gear, and we cannot allow them to become normalized.
Sentenced to life as teens, they fear getting COVID-19 before getting a second chance: “These are people who walked into adult prison as children—and they are saying that what they are facing right now is more scary than that,” says AFSC’s Jacqueline Williams. (NBC)
Letter from Birmingham City Jail: What would Dr. King say today?: “As we take this difficult journey, we must expect tension and embrace it in order to grow,” wrote Quaker Victoria Greene in this 2015 reflection. “There will be no peace, no order until there is justice for all.”
Note to self: White people taking part in Black Lives Matter protests: Quaker activist Vonn New reminds white people: “Remember that you are there as support and in solidarity—it’s not about you