Quakers and white supremacy

This weekend my yearly meeting, Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) will hold our Midyear meeting. The theme is How Is White Supremacy Keeping Us From Hearing God’s Voice? Which will be lead by Vanessa Julye.

This morning I’m reflecting on some of my experiences as a White Quaker. And some ways Friends can connect with people of color locally.

White supremacy triggers emotional responses. My experience is White Friends usually react to the concept with some combination of anger, guilt, confusion and fear. Note the use of White to describe Caucasian Friends. The use of the word Quaker by itself implies White Quakers. When we talk about the history of Quakers and enslavement, for example, Friends of color did not enslave others. So it isn’t accurate to use Quakers, but rather, White Quakers. White supremacy can be found in relationships of white people with any non-white peoples.

Note: The Martin Kelly email that was sent yesterday contained information that was not up to date, so that has been deleted.

Avis Wanda McClinton published a story she wrote in Friends Journal, My Experience as an African American Quaker in 2014. Avis Wanda’s path has led to some Friends of my monthly meeting, Bear Creek, to offer some personal support with email messages and a few conference calls. She is a friend of mine. There are many parts of Avis Wanda’s experiences with White Friends that are shocking. Examples of White supremacy at its worse.

The post, Hear My Plea, on March 3rd this year, contains the following queries from Avis Wanda:

Query: Does your faith community face the need of having honest and open discussions about the legacy of slavery with all its hurtful facets? Can we accept the strong feelings that will arise from these discussions?
Query: Is your faith community prepared to work with your local community to create a racially diverse and equal society?
Query: As a Friend would you allow another individual to insult, demean, hurt, or exclude another from his or her worship? How can people just stand there and let bad things happen?

My hope in researching the American slavery era is for a more humane world and a better existence for everyone. We are all God’s children.
We are in this together, folks. 
                    Avis Wanda McClinton
                    A child of God’s

This past year I’ve been learning about and participating in projects of Des Moines Mutual Aid, which is closely connected to Des Moines Black Liberation. This blog post describes some of that work. And the specific plea for faith communities to think about how we can create Mutual Aid projects. Des Moines Mutual Aid and Black Lives Matter ask for help from faith communities

Funds needed for winter survival. Donate to these mutual aid groups to support our houseless neighbors!!
Then, think of how you can create mutual aid!
Call upon the city council.
Ask your place of worship to open their doors.
Ask friends to donate.
Des Moines Black Lives Matter

mutual aid is the new economy. mutual aid is community. it is making sure your elderly neighbor down the street has a ride to their doctor’s appointment. mutual aid is making sure the children in your neighborhood have dinner, or a warm coat for the upcoming winter. mutual aid is planting community gardens.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power.

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices.

Des Moines Black Lives Matter

Following is a Minute on Racial Justice, approved at Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) in 2016.

Minute on Racial Justice
Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative) 2016

A testimony of Quakers is that all people are beloved and equal in the eyes of God.
We live in a society that is struggling to deal with consequences of slavery, and the failure to achieve equity for all after slavery was abolished. Conditions such as discriminatory lending practices, multigenerational inequities around home ownership, and easier access to education for white people persist in our laws and culture, resulting in institutional racism.

Some Friends once owned slaves. William Penn believed that “slavery was perfectly acceptable, provided that slave owners attended to the spiritual and material needs of those they enslaved.” Penn “had a curious blind spot about slavery. Quakers were far ahead of most other Americans, but it’s surprising that people with their humanitarian views could have contemplated owning slaves at all.”

Picking up the work of colonial Quaker Anthony Benezet, who wrote an early tract opposing slavery, John Woolman traveled up and down the Atlantic coast laboring with Quaker slaveholders and testifying against the institution of slavery. It was through his years of patient dialogue that Quakers first freed their slaves then testified against slavery and over time became the backbone of the anti-slavery movement in America.

A gap in awareness exists today, which allows so many people who consider themselves white to continue practices that give them advantages over people of color.

The scope of these problems is extensive and deep. Racial tensions continue to result in violence and death. There is an increasingly militarized police response. The Black Lives Matter movement is helping raise awareness around these issues.

Many white people are still not as aware of some of these issues. But to continue to benefit from these privileges is not right.

Not having relationships with people of color often results in misunderstanding and unfortunate racial attitudes among white people. One significant consequence of that is the election of so many representatives who reflect these views to legislative bodies.

Building relationships with people of color is one way we can begin to address this, as we build Beloved Communities together.

We urge each person to take a careful look at their life, to identify where one is benefiting from this, and work to correct that. We urge Friends to speak out and take action against these systemic injustices and violence occurring today.

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