Quakers, Racism, and the Blessed Community

Vanessa Julye, co-author of Fit For Freedom, Not For Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice discusses overcoming racism in the Religious Society of Friends.

Jon Watts

Jon Watts launched and directed the QuakerSpeak project for its first 6 seasons. Keep up to date with Jon’s work at his website.

9 thoughts on “Quakers, Racism, and the Blessed Community

  1. Friend Niyonu Spann presents a very good view for white men. We currently seem to have another point of Latino considered in many views on racism across the country. The Latino can be Black, Native American, Asian, or White. Their difference is actually lingual, but not the Latin language. They have a cultural base with a heavy Spanish (or Portuguese) language and Catholic influence from areas of South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands. Unfortunately, the ‘American White (and Black) Supremacy’ base in the United States, wishes to alienate these individuals, because of their differences, instead of accepting the reach across racial lines they have achieved, (not in all areas).
    Even some of my relatives have expressed a dislike for Latinos, because of what their friends have expressed to them. After attending a graduate school in Lima, Peru, visiting Universidas de Puerto Rico, and working with concrete crews of Latinos in Virginia, I know they are like the rest of the world, real people: good, bad, and indifferent. I wish my step-son could see that. What he sees is the drug-addict criminal, who fathered his cousin’s daughter and son, plus attacked her. In this situation, his grandmother overcame her dislike for the idea of biracial grandchildren and actually takes care of her biracial great-grandchildren with a Latino father.
    We have now reached a point of Global Consciousness. People around our planet can contact each other and work toward saving Earth. Corporate control, greed, and war may be huge problems to overcome in doing that.

  2. The Religious Society of Friends is a community of Faith. We are a community of believers. We are also members of the wider community and of the human family. The social constructs of “the world” have an unavoidable impact on our faith community. When those realities begin to drive the motivations and actions of our meetings we begin to have problems. I don’t question any of the statements made by Friend Vanessa and offer this as an additional thought. The solution and the healing for the wounds we cause and receive is found in Divine Love. In “the world” I and everyone else has much to do to live into the Light of justice and equality. Within our communities of Faith, our meetings, I begin with the assumption of absolute Love, Compassion and Forgiveness. Nothing else matters and nothing else is relevant. Trust to this and healing for any inequity or wound is instantaneous and permanent.

  3. I am tremendously grateful to Friends Journal for all the articles in the October, 2014 issue on race, although it was hard to read at times. My prayer is that those of us of Anglo/European descent can hear the stories and not resort to backlash or denial.This is such a difficult issue for us and we have a long way to go to really reach the blessed community that I think we yearn for. It is a service to us all to engage in the difficult conversations. Blessings, Laura

  4. Thank you Vanessa for addressing this problem with the wider Quaker community. I fully understand the need and intent of your message here. I would heed caution, however, in using the phrase “white supremacy” as the connotation is one linked to the most terrible of hate groups. You defined your use of the phrase as “white dominance.” At risk of putting off those you which to reach in our community, perhaps the use of “white dominance” alone would be the better word choice.

  5. Yes, Thank you Vanessa, for your bringing attention to the Quaker community, a much under acknowledged concern in our mostly European based population of Quaker Friends. I grew up in Oakland, California in a diverse community with ethnic differences and grew to love the diversity and cultural enrichment of my life in the Bay Area as a white woman. My experience with Friends taught me over many years at Berkeley Friends Meeting, while experiencing as a whole Friend’s commitment to practicing faith and theoretically having tolerance and acceptance toward African American, Latin, Asian, and other culturally identified groups, and individuals, I felt an under-current of denial and an attitude of protected class privilege in the expression and thinking of Friends around their Quaker status.

  6. Thank you, Vanessa Juyle, for your delicate explanation of how it is.

    Babies born white in America are taught to swim in white supremacist waters; Racism is a system of power our country was founded on. It’s invisible to most white people, including the Friends I love, because we look through white eyes with white experiences.

    Robin DiAngelo’s concept of the “Good/Bad Binary” blinds us to face white supremacy conditioning because we define racism as bad. And disavow our role in systemic racism because we’re good people. Right? When it’s a system of privilege, an implicit identity, every class born with white skin benefits from.

    I was lucky enough to be born with white skin, trying to become an anti-racist, knowing I will struggle against white supremacy conditioning until the day I die.

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