“I believe that Quakers are uniquely called… to lean into racial equity principles, to engage in the antidotes to white supremacy culture,” says Lauren Brownlee, the Associate General Secretary for Community and Culture at Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). “Many of the Quaker testimonies give us guidance for how we might engage in racial equity work.”
Lauren explains how the testimonies of peace, integrity, community, equity, and even stewardship can shape anti-racism practices for individual Friends and meetings. “It is important for us to hold on to the fact that white supremacy culture is ever-present in Quaker communities,” she tells us, “and our antidotes are right there, present alongside these aspects of white supremacy culture that we encounter.”
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I have been very interested in Tema Okun’s work on white supremacy culture, and some of the characteristics of white supremacy culture, that include aspects like: perfectionism, either or kind of binary thinking, one right answer, individualism, urgency. And one of the things that I’ve noticed is that that is true across my world, my life, and it is especially true often in Quaker communities.
Antidotes to white supremacy culture, including an openness to multiple perspectives, a slowing down, connection to reflection and a commitment to reflection — all of that is reflective of what our Quaker principles are aswell.
I am Lauren Brownlee. She/her pronouns. I am from Washington, DC and I am a member at Bethesda Friends Meeting in Baltimore, Yearly Meeting. I believe that Quakers are uniquely called from our principles and practices to lean into racial equity principles, to engage in the antidotes to white supremacy culture. Many of the Quaker testimonies give us guidance for how we might engage in racial equity work. The testimony of peace as an example.
When I think about the peace testimony, I think about our being open to a range of ways that people engage. A range of beliefs, that people might have. A range of worldviews and backgrounds and how we are in community, which is another of the testimonies, together. Our peace testimony invites us into and openness. Our testimony of integrity invites us into listening to that of God within us, and being integrous in the way that we listen for that voice of the divine and then act from a place of that deep listening.
Our community testimony invites us to think about who all is in our community. How do we have expanding, overlapping concentric circles of community. And how are we caring uniquely for each member of our community? How are we answering to that of God in them, even if it looks different from that of God within us, which it will because we are all unique and our testimony of community says to us we are stronger together — When we each have a measure of light, when we each have a measure of truth, when we each have that measure of the divine. And then it takes community. It takes listening to everyone in that community to be our best selves, to build that beloved community that I believe we are striving for. That truly is with equity and justice for all.
And then when I think about the equity principle, the equality principle that says to me that we need to understand that our measure of truth, that our measure of light is not greater than the person next to us, that we are answering that of God within them as well, and that we have to hold up those different worldviews as different perspectives as being just as important as being just as essential in beloved community building as our own are. Even when that feels uncomfortable for us, that that sense of discomfort is often our growing and leaning into that growth, leaning into something that is unfamiliar, that helps us to be stronger as a community.
And then finally, stewardship, which we often think of as environmental stewardship, which is very important as well. And when we think about stewardship of communities, when we think about stewardship of relationships, that stewardship is also an invitation for us to be thoughtful about how we are building relationships across our communities, about how we are stewarding these principles and practices that are at the foundation of our Quaker faith.
It is important for us to hold on to the fact that white supremacy culture is ever present in Quaker communities and our antidotes are right there, present alongside these aspects of white supremacy culture that we encounter.
- How can Quakers combat white supremacy?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.