I’ve been praying how to present what I believe is the way for White Quakers such as myself, to re-engage with Quakers’ tradition of working for peace and justice. I believe many Friends share my feelings that we are not living up to the examples of our predecessors, that we have lost our way in justice work.
[Note: In the following when I say “we” or “us” I am referring to White Quakers. This distinction is necessary because what I am trying to say here stems from the concept of “whiteness”.]
Whiteness is a forced group membership that originated by oppressing people of color (Williams, 2020). And, it causes psychological and spiritual damage to White people just as it damages non-Whites. White Americans are imbued with Whiteness from infancy, they do not choose it for themselves.What Is Whiteness? Should people be proud of membership in a group marked by power and privilege? by Monnica Williams, Psychology Today, Jun 13, 2020
In many instances our White Quaker ancestors modeled spirit led lives. But what does it mean when they did things that were wrong. Mistakes like being involved in enslavement? Like settling on Indigenous lands? Removing native children from their families? When they did things they thought were helping others, that actually did not help. In some instances caused harm, a great deal of harm instead.
Those are not things the Spirit would lead us to do. So either
- spiritual guidance was not sought
- or was misinterpreted.
Are we making mistakes ourselves. Are we truly living Spirit-led lives now?
I believe we are making mistakes today. For example, we should not have participated in the profligate use of fossil fuels. We are experiencing accelerating environmental chaos as a result. I was led to refuse to have an automobile in my life.
Another mistake relates to a pernicious system that none of us can easily escape; the capitalist economic system. The reason I’m led to write this series of articles is to try to show the evils of capitalism. I believe evil is the appropriate term, as I will be trying to explain. Briefly, capitalism is a system controlled by wealthy White people that intentionally impoverishes people of color.
I have been blessed to have been led to engage with a number of communities of Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC). This has given me opportunities to see their suffering under the system of capitalism, which has been highlighted as a consequence of the COVID pandemic. To see how unjust capitalism is, and who benefits from it. To understand how they see those, including White Quakers, who benefit from capitalism at their expense.
White Quakers’ continued support of capitalism as a way of life is our downfall.
Downfall (See also FAILURE.) To fail badly in any undertaking, particularly after its apparent initial success; to encounter a sudden setback after an auspicious beginning.
The Free Dictionary
My intention in this series of articles is to show how we can learn from mistakes and use that analysis as a way to regain our focus on peace and justice work. We (White Quakers) can not do that until we understand what our condition is today, and how we got here. How those outside the Society of Friends view us.
Mistake An error or fault resulting from defective judgment, deficient knowledge, or carelessness.
The Free Dictionary
- Learning from our mistakes is the opportunity to grow and change. We don’t want to make the same mistakes again.
- We need to discover what we are doing now that is causing harm.
- When our mistakes have harmed others we need to publicly acknowledge that.
- Doing so shows those we harmed that we are aware of and accept our mistakes.
- Is required before we can begin to make amends for those mistakes. We have to know what went wrong before we can fix it.
- Is the first step in the process of re-establishing relationships with those we harmed.
Thus this series of articles is intended to explain why it is necessary to reject the capitalist economic system. That can be done, is being done, by creating Mutual Aid communities.