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A black woman confronts Trump supporters at a 2016 rally in St. Louis, Mo. Photo © Patience Zalanga.

Building White Racial Stamina

A black woman confronts Trump supporters at a 2016 rally in St. Louis, Mo. Photo © Patience Zalanga.

Back then

“Just show up!” That was a refrain I heard many times from the Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian American participants in a number of workshops during the White Privilege Conference gatherings in 2010 and 2011. It was in response to the frequent question from white participants, “What can we do to help?” It was a simple directive that could easily be met. And yet …

For ten years before that, I had been haunted by a query lifted up by Deborah Saunders, an African American Quaker, as she spoke to a group of Friends who were part of the LGBTQ community: “If you say you support racial diversity in our religious society and your life itself isn’t diverse, then ask yourself why that is.”

Back then I saw myself as a good person, which to me meant that I wasn’t racist. Yet her question began to exercise me. In my daily life, I was completely surrounded by white people in worship, at work, and in my social circles. What was I doing wrong? Why weren’t my good intentions and my “right attitude” enough to calm my conscience? How could I make my life racially diverse and go about it in a way that was authentic and not performative?

I simply could not see that I had chosen to isolate myself in predominantly white neighborhoods, university classes, and worship communities. Society taught me to stand by my intentions with vigor and to minimize or ignore their impact—­in this case, the lack of people of color in my life.

Later, Quakerism itself misled me to believe that charitable work was deep anti‐racist work: volunteering at soup kitchens, donating to food shelves, and opening up the meetinghouse for a week each year to homeless families. Involving myself in these activities may have helped me feel better about myself temporarily, or may have helped the individuals receiving those services, but my life and heart were not transformed. I yearned for more.

The mix of white norms, middle‐class norms, and so‐­called Quaker values makes for a powerful, often invisible, multilayered system that actually stifles healthy multiracial, cross‐­class community building.

Seeing the invisible

Ten years between Deborah Saunders’s message and the directive by people of color to “just show up,” way opened for my spouse and me to go to the secular White Privilege Conference in 2010. That’s where I learned that whiteness in the United States socializes white people—­and to some extent people of color and Indigenous people—­to not see whiteness or systemic oppression; to prioritize individualism over community; and, ironically, to prioritize conformity over authentic truth telling. We are all socialized without our consent.

Mainstream norms in the United States are centered on professional middle‐class norms, including how to engage in conflict; under what conditions to share or hoard wealth; whether to pursue promotions at work, value a college education, or put food on the table at any cost; and how to protect our personal reputation rather than be in solidarity with someone who is facing oppression daily.

White norms and professional middle‐class norms come together in Quaker communities in the United States as the acceptable norms. These ­unexamined and superimposed norms are ones that some people don’t experience or value in their own familial or societal culture. The mix of white norms, middle‐class norms, and so‐­called Quaker values makes for a powerful, often invisible, multilayered system that actually stifles healthy multiracial, cross‐­class community building.

The pressure and unconscious choice to conform to racialized and class‐­based norms harms efforts to build deep, authentic community. Over the years, I have heard from a variety of Friends about those who can’t or won’t bend to white, professional Quaker norms. They often feel forced to choose between their authentic whole selves and a white‐­centric, middle‐­class normed Quakerism. The forced choice isn’t anything that our Quaker meetings, clerks, committees, and business practices intentionally set before Friends of color, Indigenous Friends, and poor or working class Friends, yet it happens.

At times, I have been part of the problem—poor and working‐class Friends and Friends of color have told me so. One time I gave an interview that should have centered my supervisor of African descent but instead centered myself. Just as we are responsible for harm caused when we accidentally drive through a stop sign and hit another car, so too we are responsible for the spiritual and emotional harm we cause when we impress upon worshipers of color the “Quaker” way of doing things without examining and reforming our tradition’s class‐­based or culture‐­based norms.

Education alone doesn’t stop police brutality or predatory lending or slavery… And education doesn’t guarantee the building or sustaining of a racially diverse worship community.

Mistakes

A June 2018 demonstrations at General Dynamics Corporation in Bloomington, Minn., protesting the company’s selling of building materials to the U.S. government for immigrant detention facilities at the border that aid in the separation of families. Photo © Patience Zalanga.

“Just show up and keep showing up, even after you make a mistake. And you will make mistakes.” Along with that refrain, for a while it seemed the best advice was “Educate yourselves. We can’t always be the ones doing that; we’re tired!” Yes, we Friends love our life­long learning. That’s in part due to our middle‐­class norms of valuing education. But education alone doesn’t stop police brutality or predatory lending or slavery‐­through‐­mass­incarceration or the cultural genocide of Indigenous people. And education doesn’t guarantee the building or sustaining of a racially diverse worship community.

Neither does doing anti‐racism work in isolation or writing letters to elected officials or insisting that we know what’s best for “those people” when we don’t have direct, meaningful involvement in each others’ lives. “Nothing about us without us is for us” is a maxim that comes out of the disability rights movement, and it applies to many anti‐­oppression movements.

Many of our Quaker meetings in the United States couldn’t see ourselves clear to come under the weight of the vision and protest of Black Lives Matter, because movement leaders were “too angry” or were seen as not going through the “proper” channels for working for change. We Quakers wrongly center our Quaker ways as the best way to bring about change, yet we won’t even sit in or speak openly about the painful truth that before a handful of Quakers actively worked for abolition, an appalling majority of early Quakers in the United States were enslavers or otherwise directly connected to the slave trade. Full stop.

We don’t develop stamina by taking workshops or by saying daily affirmations, just as we don’t learn to swim by reading about how to move our arms and kick our legs.

Wade in

The advice to “just show up, even after you make a mistake” is an invitation to white Friends to get off of our Quaker benches, out of our steeplehouses, and into the communities where people are hurting. It is ­not to prop ourselves up and say, “Look at how I’m a good white person for coming here,” but to practice a humility that demonstrates that we were wrongly asserting our leadership, or that we have been wrong to have stayed away so long, disconnected from our fellow human beings.

For me, reorganizing my life around justice work means I continually need to build, broaden, and deepen what sociologist Robin DiAngelo calls racial stamina. She mentions that attribute in the context of her work around white fragility. But who wants to own up to being fragile or weak or defensive? It seems to me that as “proud” Americans, we’d much rather strive for endurance, resilience, and stamina.

The thing is, we don’t develop stamina by taking workshops or by saying daily affirmations, just as we don’t learn to swim by reading about how to move our arms and kick our legs. The primary way to develop racial stamina is to wade or dive in and have a variety of direct experiences among people whose racial identity differs from our own.

More of our predominantly white meetings must consider what we can do to increase our racial stamina.

Getting full and coming back

A June 2018 demonstrations at General Dynamics Corporation in Bloomington, Minn., protesting the company’s selling of building materials to the U.S. government for immigrant detention facilities at the border that aid in the separation of families. Photo © Patience Zalanga.

This past summer, my dad nearly died. Because of my long experience among intergenerational Quaker communities, I have seen Friends approaching death’s door, so I was unafraid to travel to be with my father. My brother, on the other hand, doesn’t participate in an intergenerational community, and for him, his first exposure to such proximity to death was our father, who lives just 30 minutes away from him. The intensity was such that my brother at first had to spend less than an hour or so with our father before becoming overwhelmed.

I immediately began coaching him on how to build his stamina. At my first opportunity, I took my brother aside and said the following:

This will be hard. Dad looks terrible and might be dying. When you’re in his room, you’ll probably get full up with emotion. Do your best to take some deep breaths to stay present. You’ll get full. Then leave the room and go for a walk or take a break. What’s important, though, is that you come back after a while, when you have more room again. You can’t just walk away and not return; it’s not fair to Mom and me. It will be hard but you’ll get better at it, with time.

My brother nodded as if he understood. And during the course of the next few days, he got better: his stamina increased. (Our dad got better, too.)

Increasing stamina of any sort requires a mix of increasing frequency, building intensity, and extending the duration of an activity. When predominantly white Quaker communities take up significant deeds as well as write powerful minutes on becoming a racially diverse religious society, we must consider and engage in these three components of increasing our individual and corporate racial stamina.

For me, I started with reading authors of color, donating to Indigenous‐led organizations, and getting involved in a African American‐­led reparations project. Along the way, I had my missteps, like that interview I did, but I still joined marches for Michael Brown and Black Lives Matter. My life is transformed, but I worry that my Quaker faith is not.

More of our predominantly white meetings must consider what we can do to increase our racial stamina. How can we have direct, authentic cross‐racial experiences that increase in frequency, grow in intensity, and build endurance? Find a starting point and wade in. See what paths emerge, and remain open to what we can pursue together.

Elizabeth (Liz) A. Oppenheimer carries a concern for addressing whiteness and racism among Friends. She recently distributed an open letter to white Friends, which is on her web-log at _thegoodraisedup.blogspot.com_. She is a member of Bear Creek Meeting outside of Earlham, Iowa, and worships with Laughing Waters Friends Preparative Meeting of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative).


Posted in: Features, Racially Diverse Society of Friends (January 2019)

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29 Responses to Building White Racial Stamina

  1. Keith Saylor January 4, 2019 at 12:41 pm #

    City & State
    Bandon, MI
    There is a way of being, conscience, and consciousness wherein we are not guided by outward political and religious ideological constructs, opinion, and contrivances. In this different way, the direct experience of immanent inshining Presence itself in itself guides and informs our actions, relationships, and interactions without regard for outward political and religious ideological constructs, insitutions, and the leaders who profess such constructs. In this experience of immanent presence itself in itself, we are come out of reflective thought as a process to inform relationships. It is discovered to us that being guided by outward constructs like *whiteness* is of the same nature a being guided by constructs like *blackness* or *racism*. It is the very process of being guided and informed by reflective (outward or mirrored) thought in our relationships and interactions that blocks or shadows the immediate and direct expereince inshining impulse and motion of immanent Presence itself. The appearance of immanent Presence in our conscience and consciousness discovers to us, in the life itself, a laying down of all outward political and religious constructs and contrivance and a coming into the living Impulse and Motion itself in our relationships. This living Impulse itself is not of the nature of relfective thought and discovers to us a consciousness or being that settles down into Life itself as guide. This inshining Life itself works and is experienced through the relative experience of increase, decrease, or stasis of the Impulse, Motion, or inshining Light itself and not in a leading into particular reflective political or religious thought. The relative experience of the impulse in our conscience and consciousness in the very act of our relationships and interactions guides us through the experience of the increase, decrease, or stasis of the inshining motion itself; so that, should the direct expereince of immanent Presence decrease during a particular action, we alter our interaction to come into accord with an increase of the inshining impulse and so on. This different way of being is come out of relfective thought and is come into the sufficiency of inshining immanent Presence (Spirit of Christ) itself in itself to rule and guide or actions interactions, and relationships.

    • LizOppenheimer January 6, 2019 at 10:16 am #

      City & State
      Minneapolis Minnesota US
      Dear Friend Keith,

      Your comment here distresses me. For one thing, I have experienced far too many white people respond to the concern of racism by “spiritualizing” it away. It is a form of insisting that you “don’t see color” and neither should we. Just because you have tapped the Inshining Light doesn’t mean that Friends of color among us aren’t experiencing here‐and‐now racism.

      In addition, writers and healers of color, such as Resmaa Menakem (My Grandmother’s Hands), point out that U.S. culture socializes us—especially white Americans—to soothe away our discomfort rather than feel it and redirect it into action that could address racism and white supremacy. I experience your words almost as a spell or incantation, hoping to dismiss or minimize my telling of the Truth. Perhaps that was not your intent, so I am telling you what impact your words have.

      Your response reminds me, too, of the many cautions contained in this recent article “Converting Hidden Spiritual Racism Into Sacred Activism” For example, are you wishing to “send love and prayers” as a way to distance yourself from the pain and denial that I am intentionally inviting white Friends into?

      On a side note: Over the years as a blogger and social media user, I have learned that when someone’s online comment triggers me in a certain way, I first re‐ground myself in my intention: I am a white Friend striving to be actively anti‐racist (as compared to being a “non‐racist”) and to bring Light to parts of our Quaker history that have remained hidden or unspoken. Then I seek information about the writer of the comment, so I might better understand at least some of the person’s larger context before responding directly.

      • Sarah January 7, 2019 at 7:45 pm #

        City & State
        Boca Raton, FL
        You make so much sense. Thank you. Will be reading Menakem SOON! and doing some stepping in to see where it leads me.

      • Keith Saylor January 8, 2019 at 7:54 am #

        City & State
        Bandon, Or.
        Hello Elizabeth,

        I appreciate your sharing of your feeling of distress concerning my testimony to this witness. And also for sharing your various reflections upon me relative to *racism*. I acknowledge the difficulty of communicating because we are not of the same mind and conscience. The appearance of immanent Presence in my conscience has discovered to me a different way of interacting with and relating to other people. This different way is not of the nature of reflective thought; so that I am come out of the process of identification with and participation in outward political, religious, or social ideological and institutional forms to guide and inform relationships and interactions. For example, to engage with you through the process of reflective thought would be to usurp the authority and power of the immanent Presence of the spirit of Christ to guide my conscience in our current written interaction. In this moment, the inshining Light of Christ is present even as I write. It is my experience that when interacting with another through abstract intellectual constructs, the active presence of the inshining Light in my conscience and consciousness dims and is often severely overshadowed. I am come to a point wherein I value the ever (moment by moment) presence of the inshining Light itself in itself in all things and interactions over identification with and participation in political, religious, and social opinion, ideology, and the institutions and teachers that promote them. Truly, there is a Life wherein human being and interaction and relationships, through the direct and immediate experience of the immanent presence of God, is drawn out of the very process of identification with and participation in outward intellectual constructs (reflective thought) to guide and inform conscience and consciousness. It is also discovered to me that the inshining impulse and motion of the inshining Light itself in itself is sufficient to order and guide human relationships without regard for persons or the outward intellectual constructs, opinions, and contrivances they profess.

        To go a bit further by way of specifics. Through the appearance of the immanent Presence of God in my conscience and consciousness, I am come out of the process of being guided and informed by the outward concepts and sentiments of *racism* and *anti‐racism* in my relationships and interactions with people. That is, these types, shadows, or reflections do not guide my conscience or inform my consciousness in my relations and interactions with people. The inshining motion and impulse of the light of Jesus Christ rules and guides my relationships and interactions without regard for the process of identification with and participation in the types, shadows, and reflections of reflective thought or consciousness.

        None of this is to suggest that you or anyone should seek this different way of human being. It is not my role to suggest such. It is my role to testify to its witness within me and others and own its manifestation through the motion and impulse of the light itself in itself in the conscience and consciousness of others. I hope this will help gain a further sense of my experience.

        • Liz Oppenheimer January 12, 2019 at 9:00 am #

          City & State
          Minneapolis MN USA
          Keith, thanks again for writing.

          I can tell you are well grounded in your spirituality and understanding of the Light. Many white people of faith receive encouragement from the wider (whiter?) society in the U.S. to value our individual understandings of what is True.

          These testimonies unfortunately help to erase the very real *systemic* and *structural* racism that uplifts white people (as a whole) and disadvantages African Americans, Native Americans, Latinx people, and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders.

          How does my individual spirituality stand up against institutions and institutional practices such as slavery; predatory lending and redlining; underemployment; and mass incarceration?

          My spiritual journey as a Friend has provided me an Opening to see that if I continue to expose myself only to the experiences of white people, I will miss the Truth and the Loving Principle as experienced by people of color and indigenous people. Surely as the earliest Friends who were male realized that their female counterparts* also had Light to share, so too we white Friends must realize that we cannot limit God’s Truth to what it is that white people have proclaimed to be true.

          Police brutality against Black people is real. The war on drugs–against Black people–is real. White people calling 911 because they are uncomfortable with seeing a Black or Brown person in a predominantly white area is real. Our individual spirituality will not provide meaningful support to people of color, nor will it disrupt oppressive systems.

          Blessings,
          Liz

          • Liz Oppenheimer January 15, 2019 at 1:41 am #

            City & State
            Minneapolis Minnesota USA
            *I left out the explanation for the asterisk in my previous comment! I acknowledge that I am referencing/reinforcing a gender binary that erases trans folks, nonbinary folks, and gender nonconforming folks. I’m searching for inclusive language.…

          • Keith Saylor January 15, 2019 at 5:04 pm #

            City & State
            Bandon, Or
            Hello Elizabeth,

            The inshining impulse of the Light itself in my conscience has discovered to me a different way than your journey with Friends has discovered to you. I am come to taste and value the impulse of inshining immanent Presence in itself to rule and guide human relationships and interactions without regard for outward political, religious, and social concerns. I own that the Life itself in my conscience and in the conscience of all people (having nothing to do with “individual spirituality”) to a relative degree, is sufficient in itself to manifest victory over conflict, strife, and oppression in this world.

            May that Spirit which has manifested and motioned your concern guide and hold you in your conversation and interactions.

        • CLAIRE STAFFIERI March 6, 2019 at 6:52 am #

          City & State
          Feasterville PA
          Your sharing of how you are living your life with your inward Light has moved me deeply.

          The power and Evolving Revelation you have caused within me, I will hold in Divine Silence.

          Claire

  2. Susan Chast January 5, 2019 at 12:03 am #

    City & State
    Lansdowne, PA
    I find it helpful that you clarify each part so a reader can see how you arrived here: “The mix of white norms, middle‐class norms, and so‐called Quaker values makes for a powerful, often invisible, multilayered system that actually stifles healthy multiracial, cross‐class community building.” Sometimes we say these things in ways that raise emotions without promoting understanding. I loved reading this and identifying with so much of your journey. Thank you.

    • Liz Oppenheimer January 7, 2019 at 6:06 pm #

      City & State
      Minneapolis MN USA
      Thanks for commenting, Susan. I know I can often get very abstract or hypothetical, so when I slow myself down, I remember to be more about “direct experience” and concrete examples.

      Now I hope that you and other white Friends reading this article and the rest of this issue of FJ will carry the actual work into our meetings. There is no replacement for inward change nor for systemic change…

  3. Elizabeth Duverlie January 7, 2019 at 2:37 pm #

    City & State
    Baltimore, MD
    Thank you, Elizabeth Oppenheimer! This is so well said and so needed. May it help me and the many others striving to be anti‐racist in true and meaningful ways.

  4. Christopher January 7, 2019 at 2:59 pm #

    City & State
    Bradenton, FL
    “Wading‐in” seems to be another ineffective ‘same‐old’ solution, only bolstered by inflated language. If a small portion of involvement in soup kitchens, for example, is ineffective in resolving material discrepancies that supposedly create imbalances‐seeking‐remedy, then shouldn’t the author and her adherents simply divest themselves of their relatively financially‐elite property‐and‐privilege portfolios, give it to oppressed people, and relocate to ‘oppressed neighborhoods’? I don’t see ‘privileged’ office holders demanding their seats be surrendered to ‘people of color’ or the ‘undocumented’, and I wonder really how far she has actually “transformed” her life.

    • Keith Saylor January 8, 2019 at 9:55 am #

      City & State
      Bandon, Or.
      Hello,

      Do you testify that the inshining presence of God in your conscience guides your conversation and that your words above are come in the spirit of the inshining Light?

    • Mary from the U.S. January 8, 2019 at 7:55 pm #

      City & State
      U.S.
      Christopher

      You wrote: Then shouldn’t the author and her adherents simply divest themselves of their relatively financially‐élite property‐and‐privilege portfolios, give it to oppressed people, and relocate to ‘oppressed neighborhoods’? I don’t see ‘privileged’ office holders demanding their seats be surrendered to ‘people of color’ or the ‘undocumented’, and I wonder really how far she has actually “transformed” her life.

      Some have. More are. We are finding ways to accept and express in action the transformation that comes from metanoia that change of consciousness and heart. I cannot judge the author or those who appreciate what she wrote. I cannot say that giving all and following the way you describe is the only way, but it is the way some of us strive for in our lives. Some Friends are giving their financial all, and along with others choose to live in areas of most need. Some are putting their physical lives on the line along with the relinquishing of their personal privilege and power.

      I have never met the author or her companions but there is reason to believe that they are living the call she writes about without running ahead of that calling. At least their is reason to lower the judgement as you have interestingly raised the expectations you presented and I see the quiet ones living often without notice. Bit by bit we proceed.

    • Liz Oppenheimer January 12, 2019 at 9:16 am #

      City & State
      Minneapolis MN USA
      Christopher,

      You are right to question me. We don’t know each other, as far as I can tell, and I have much more risk‐taking I can do, beyond submitting articles to a popular Quaker magazine.

      Here in Minneapolis, it isn’t office holders who are demanding that their seats be turned over to people of color or to immigrants: it is the people themselves. In Minneapolis, the racial diversity and age diversity of our city council has flipped tremendously in order to be more representative of the residents of the city. No one from that body offered to step down. I did my best to support both candidates of color and white candidates that communities of color actively backed. I am still learning about “followership” when it comes to addressing racism.

      In Hennepin County, where Minneapolis sits, the same thing happened this last election cycle: an old white professional middle class man refused to give up his seat when a highly qualified younger, experienced working class Black woman stepped up. The people of Hennepin county got organized, stepped up, and voted her in. I met with her; I talked her up with my white F/friends and neighbors who hadn’t heard about her before; I dedicated time, energy, and resources to get her elected.

      You don’t ask me for evidence of how my life has been transformed, though I have offered examples in my written piece, including where I have fallen short. But just as Friends say “Live up to thy measure of Light and more will be granted thee,” so I continue to affirm that as we take up small, significant risks to address racism, we will be given greater humility and greater confidence to take up larger risks–individually at first, then interpersonally, then systemically, and ultimately structurally.

      I pray that the life I live speaks to the anti‐racism I engage in. Perhaps one day you and I might know one another more personally so we might both understand how Truth has prospered in our lives.

  5. Mary January 7, 2019 at 5:21 pm #

    City & State
    U.S.
    Thank You Liz for your written words. They resonate.

    Two Resources that helped me and could be applicable to Friends Meetings are:

    The FGC Spiritual Deepening Program:
    Understanding and Healing White Supremacy
    Held October — November 2018, co‐facilitated by Regina Renee Ward and Polly Washburn This course will be repeated again.

    The self help book : My Grandmother’s Hands‐ Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem

  6. Brother Ace January 7, 2019 at 7:21 pm #

    City & State
    Richmond, Virginia
    As a black Quaker in racist, reactionary, rebel, right‐wing, Republican Richmond, Va, I break down barriers in this monthly meeting by identifying the haters and shame/blame in the name of Black Power against White Privilege. It is surely true as a maxim, aphorism, or adage that : anything about us but not by us is not for us. The Quakers need to address human reform and racial reconciliation under the parameters of social reparations and cultural repatriation as far as their’ noise” is concerned. A gradualist, quietist, anachronistic cloud covers meetings while black rage and white denial continues it’s march. Like a death grip, the white Q is really stuck on their “Caucasian” origins and Semitism. Richmond is ground zero and we will be victors and not victims in the vanguard of the beloved liberation struggle of the noble Negro race.

    • Keith Saylor January 8, 2019 at 9:52 am #

      City & State
      Bandon, Or.
      Hello Brother Ace,

      Do you testify that the political and ideological constructs you profess are come to you through the inshining Presence of God guiding in your conscience guiding your conversation and interaction with people?

  7. Claire Cafaro January 7, 2019 at 8:57 pm #

    City & State
    Fort Collins CO
    Thank you Liz Oppenheimer for raising this most important issue, one which has been a source of consternation to me for some time. It has been difficult for me to articulate my distress in the meeting I attend in Colorado. I moved here just 8 years ago ( still retain membership in NY state), to be closer to a son as I age (I’m 85).
    The places I’ve lived in the past have been more heterogeneous, here in Fort Collins there are very few people of color. When race comes up in the meeting, the conversation immediately turns to sanctuary for immigrants, and while I sympathize, that is not where I wish to use the energy remaining to me.
    A SURJ group formed in town last year but it is quiescent, if not moribund. I went to a few meetings and while I love being with young people and was welcomed, the group was purposely all‐white,. I believe it had a connection with Black Lives Matter or a similar group but that was never made clear. Attendance, after a few meetings, plummeted.
    I was privileged to attend a workshop co‐facilitated by Vanessa Julye and Regina Renee Ward at the Boulder meeting house, the only Friend from Fort Collins MM to do so. It was great to be among Friends who care about this issue. I would like to be able to communicate my concerns to Friends in Fort Collins in a way that might reach them. I’m not really sure what I can do about enlarging my circle to include people of color because of my age and the diminishments of aging. There, I have gone on too long so will stop now. I welcome suggestions from you or anyone else reading my statement.

    • Liz Oppenheimer January 12, 2019 at 2:48 pm #

      City & State
      Minneapolis MN USA
      Claire, thanks for taking the time to write as vulnerably as you have. And thanks for carving out time and reserving energy in the way you did to participate in the workshop at Boulder; the few meetings of SURJ; and probably other activities. Your dedication come through, even if the question remains in your heart and in mine: “Am I doing enough?”

      You lift this up: <>

      I wonder if you have spoken *one‐on‐one* with at least a few Friends in your meeting, privately. Do they know how heavy your heart is? What does racism mean to them and would they like to be doing more to address it? Where are their blocks, what have they read, what have they already done or tried? …Can *you* relate to their stories of confusion, overwhelm, denial, lack of readiness; hope, uncertainty, yearning, seeking? Maybe you have already had these sorts of conversations; maybe it is time to revisit them, but to do so away from the meeting as a whole.

      In my own imperfect experience, when I share with Friends my own false starts, overwhelm, timid steps forward, and mistakes made, the more I am seen as human and flawed. The pedestal falls away and we often connect in our humanity. Then we can learn together how to accompany one another, where our mutual starting points might be, and where our individual paths of learning/acting might lead.

      I hope this helps. In a large group of white Friends, it’s as if whiteness itself is magnified and we fall too easily into the complicity of waiting overlong. But my own hope rests in our ability to relearn the art of having caring, meaningful conversations with one another.

      Blessings,
      Liz

  8. Adrian Bishop January 7, 2019 at 10:03 pm #

    City & State
    Baltimore, MD
    Thank you Friend Liz,for your article and for your reply to Keith. And Susan C., thank you for your comment that scoops my own. I have been part of these conversations a long time, but also have been living what appears to be a multi‐ racial life, but I never thought of it in those terms until this discussion arose. Frankly, I do not have much time for the discussion, I would rather use my diminishing energies to continue to ‘just wade in’.

  9. Marsha Lee Baker January 8, 2019 at 11:57 am #

    City & State
    Cullowhee, NC
    My first time reading online FJ. With no meeting closer than an hour away, I kept my local branch of NAACP in mind as I read. I come away with encouragement to build stamina.

  10. Mary from the U.S. January 8, 2019 at 2:05 pm #

    City & State
    U.S.
    Brother Ace
    Thank You for your Jerimiah -like prophetic stance.
    Your anger particularly resonates this morning.
    So, too does your message to mend our hearts/ways.

    I am finding helpful, Resmaa Menaken’s work on Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies in his self and group help book entitled “My Grandmother’s Hands”.
    I would hope that every Quaker meeting would come to work through this book, and to finally hear /see what is really going on.
    Your words help.
    Mary

  11. Donald Crawford January 8, 2019 at 3:12 pm #

    City & State
    HARRISONBURG, VA
    Why disparage middle class values? Aren’t those the values of a civil society? Respect for one another, charity for those in need, self sufficiency, intact two parent families, community involvement, participation in government by voting and speaking out. Are middle class values not desired by all of us? I fear when we talk of white privilege, black lives matter we forget the dream of Martin Luther King for all of us to be judged by the quality of our character not by the color of our skin. When can we stop dividing ourselves by race and begin joining ourselves with attention to the work which needs to be done?

    • Mary January 8, 2019 at 8:12 pm #

      City & State
      US
      Donald

      My heart hurts that you as a Friend have listed those values as middle class values. It hurts that you state those as your values since you are middle class. They are also our chosen family, friends and community values too.

      Rather than being divided from you, by your view, I ask you to open your heart to see the possible exclusion in your words.
      Could you possibly read “My Grandmother’s Hands” as a way of coming closer to comprehending your unintentional hurtful remarks, on people striving against economic and often racial odds.

    • Liz Oppenheimer January 15, 2019 at 9:07 am #

      City & State
      Minneapolis Minnesota USA
      Donald, your list of presumed middle class values comes across as… classist. Do you mean to say that poor and working class folks in the U.S. don’t show respect to others; aren’t charitable to those in need; don’t vote; and aren’t active in their respective communities, etc etc?

      My experience in my state contradicts all that you say here, and I am concerned for what you have been exposed to over the years by your own peer group, the media, and more. Can you share who or what in your life has promoted these beliefs about what constitutes “being civilized”

      Socialization (without our consent) into whiteness and into professional, middle class norms leads many of us white folks to believe that self sufficiency is the goal (compared to interdependence & mutual care); that nuclear two‐parent families is the goal (compared to multigenerational households, chosen family, and kids raised by extended family or other long‐term “hosts”); that having a career or steady employment is the goal (compared to working multiple jobs in different fields because of implicit bias/racist policies embedded in our institutions and organizations).

      I should know: I grew up with many of these white‐laced values and have been actively working to de‐bias myself and undo my improper socialization.

      Resources that have helped me learn specifically about class, classism, and implicit bias around social class include:

      1. Reading Classes, by Barbara Jensen
      2. Classism​.org/​b​log from the organization Class Action in Boston
      3. Missing Class, by Betsy Leondar‐Wright

      Blessings,
      Liz

  12. Mary January 9, 2019 at 6:39 pm #

    City & State
    U.S.
    Donald,
    I needed to center down before responding as I did. I think that there is a nuanced difference if the values you describe as middle class are accurate. For example “charity for those in need, self sufficiency: would be more in our family/community as “We are all in this together sharing rather than seeing someone as the other needy one” or “Save me from charity. Justice‐like sharing is better”.
    Likewise for many , community interdependence is more taught than self sufficiency. I have more to sit with. Thank you for the leading to do so.
    Mary

  13. Joy January 14, 2019 at 10:03 pm #

    City & State
    York, PA
    Very difficult to hear and respond by taking action (wading in).

    I am considered too white by blackfolk, and therefore not accepted. I am considered too black by whitefolk, and therefore not accepted.

    I’ve been wading for many years without understanding, outreach, or peaceful co‐existence.

    Anybody got any platitudes for that?

    • Liz Oppenheimer January 15, 2019 at 5:12 pm #

      City & State
      Minneapolis MN USA
      Joy…

      You sound tired, sad, and yearning for belonging. At the (secular) White Privilege Conference, I heard similar comments, especially from people of mixed racial background, but I don’t know the particulars of your situation. I have also heard of similar challenges to feel a sense of belonging by people from poor/working class backgrounds. Our dominant culture leaves an awful lot of people behind or falling through the cracks.

      One area that *may* address your particular circumstance might be identity development models that address intersections of identity, but it seems like you are looking not for answers but for accompaniment in your searching and:or a place to be wholely/holy you. You have made my heart tender today in reading you here…

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