I’m afraid I am not being clear about what I’m trying to do with this series of articles about White Quakers. I say White Quakers because Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC), including BIPOC Quakers, are the victims of whiteness, of the many problems discussed here. And broadly speaking, White Quakers are complicit in these problems.
I have two goals. One is to convince people that we can’t achieve justice if we try to do the work within an unjust system. And, secondly, that Mutual Aid is a framework that allows us to build just communities and relationships with each other.
It has pained me over my life (of 69 years) to see how often White Quakers have remained within the comfort of the status quo. Too many Quaker men, boys actually, cooperated with the Selective Service System. We haven’t found a way to stop the endless wars. Quakers have accepted living with the capitalist economic system, and a political system controlled by white wealth. Participated in the profligate consumption of fossil fuels, including personal cars, which has led to rapidly evolving environmental chaos. Continue to live on and profit from lands that had been inhabited by Indigenous peoples. Continue to benefit from a materialistic culture. A culture that uses the violence of police forces to protect property even at the expense of human lives. As a White Quaker myself, though I have fought hard to address these things in my own life, I too am complicit in these problems. (People often want to know, especially when they are being criticized, what gives a person the authority to speak about these things, so there is a short biography at the end of this.)
My goal for of this series is to convince White Quakers that we absolutely must find a way to escape the economic system of capitalism which is largely responsible for all of the injustices above. Our efforts to work toward peace and justice are doomed to fail as long as the work is done within the current economic and political systems of the country.
My friend Ronnie James, an Indigenous organizer who has been teaching me about Mutual Aid for the past year, puts it well:
I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.
So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”
Quakers will only be truly prophetic when they risk a great deal of their accumulated privilege and access to wealth. Prophets cannot have a stake in maintaining the status quo. Any attempt to change a system while benefiting and protecting the benefits received from the system reinforces the system. Quakers as much as anyone not only refuse to reject their white privilege, they fail to reject the benefits they receive from institutionalized racism, trying to make an unjust economy and institutionalized racism and patriarch more fair and equitable in its ability to exploit. One can not simultaneously attack racist and patriarchal institutions and benefit from them at the same time without becoming more reliant upon the benefits and further entrenching the system. Liberalism at its laziest.Scott Miller
Change is hard. In this case a revolutionary change will be required, since engaging with Mutual Aid means giving up the capitalist economic system that has supported the lifestyles of many White people quite well.
These articles are intended to discuss some tools from my experiences that can help White people begin to make honest and authentic connections with non white communities. Mutual Aid absolutely requires White people to be present with non-white people, to do this work together. It is not Mutual Aid if everyone, including White people, are not spending significant amounts of time together, doing their common work. These growing relationships, with developing trust, are essential. I plan to write additional articles about these ideas and tools. Following are the five articles written so far.
|1. White Quakers and Native Peoples|
|Recently I find myself wondering more often, thinking more deeply about what white Quakers, such as myself, were, are and might become. This questioning comes from a variety of experiences over the past fifty years. Being blessed to have become engaged with several communities. Communities of Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPOC). Communities where white Quakers don’t generally have a presence. Any presence. Those experiences expanded both my views and wonderment.|
|2. White Quakers Part 2|
|I strongly feel there is an urgent need to change the way we live. For one thing, climate change will force changes to our lives. But also because our economic and political systems are not only unjust, but also failing. I’m going to try to explain why I believe we need to reject the capitalist system, abolish police and prisons, and embrace the concepts of Mutual Aid.|
|3. White Quaker’s Downfall|
|White Quakers’ continued support of capitalism as a way of life is our downfall.|
|4. White Quakers and spiritual connections with the Kheprw Institute|
|One foundational principle of Mutual Aid is people in a local community must come together to work together, spend a lot of time getting to know each other. Build trust with each other. This is about White Quakers engaging with a black youth mentoring community.|
|5. Quaker Social Change Ministry|
|A model that teaches us how to make connections with and accompany oppressed communities near us|
I have been working on this diagram to help me understand the interrelationships among Indigenous, people of color, and White peoples. And how capitalism is central to all these injustices.
The intersecting crises of income and wealth inequality and climate change, driven by systemic white supremacy and gender inequality, has exposed the frailty of the U.S. economy and democracy. This document was prepared during the COVID-19 pandemic which exacerbated these existing crises and underlying conditions. Democratic processes have been undermined at the expense of people’s jobs, health, safety, and dignity. Moreover, government support has disproportionately expanded and boosted the private sector through policies, including bailouts, that serve an extractive economy and not the public’s interest. Our elected leaders have chosen not to invest in deep, anti-racist democratic processes. They have chosen not to uphold public values, such as fairness and equity, not to protect human rights and the vital life cycles of nature and ecosystems. Rather, our elected leaders have chosen extraction and corporate control at the expense of the majority of the people and the well-being and rights of Mother Earth. Transforming our economy is not just about swapping out elected leaders. We also need a shift in popular consciousness.A Peoples Guide to a Regenerative Economy
This diagram is about the alternative, which is Mutual Aid. (work in progress). Not depicted is the lack of a vertical hierarchy that is a key of Mutual Aid. That is why there isn’t a governing agency here. And, again, the other key is the people involved all do these things together, must be physically in the presence of each other.
Biography: I was born into a rural Quaker community in Iowa and have remained a Quaker. It is important for me to say my experiences were the result of leadings of the Spirit. Regarding war and the Selective Service System, I was a draft resister at the time of the Vietnam War. In my early twenties (1970) I was led to not have a personal automobile for environmental reasons and lived without a car the rest of my life. Also related to environmental concerns I was trained to design nonviolent direct actions, and train others how to participate. About ten years ago I was led to become involved with a Black youth mentoring community in Indianapolis, the Kheprw Institute. When I retired and moved to Iowa in 2017, I was blessed to become involved with people and organizations working on environmental concerns here. In September, 2018, I joined a small group of native and non-native people as we walked and camped along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline on our sacred journey, for ninety-four miles over eight days. And for the past year I have been truly blessed to be involved with Des Moines Mutual Aid.