Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Race Relations (a Whiter Quaker Fellowship?)

Quakerism: a view from the back benches continued

Copyright 1966 The Back Benches

Race Relations ( a Whiter Quaker Fellowship?)

Our Society is not in unity on our testimony on race relations: honesty insists that we admit that we do not yet all agree on full brotherhood. Our testimony against slave-holding was a brave and wonderful thing, once, but we have been living off the spiritual capital there for a long time, and our bookkeeping is so poor that we scarcely now know that we are in debt to the Negroes who might possibly at one time have acknowledged a debt to us.

The stories are endless. There is the Meeting which turned away Negroes on Brotherhood Sunday; there is the Quaker old folks home which openly advertised “For Whites Only;” there is the Quaker college which was integrated only by the Armed Forces; and there are the Quaker Schools which are barely integrated yet.

Our stand-offish attitudes have so cut us off from the Negro community that most Friends do not know how to begin to understand the revolution for human dignity today. Some of our young Friends would like the Society to join the revolution. But how can we, if we do not even know why it is occurring?

Once Friends knew the bitterness of discrimination. Now we are welcomed. Once Friends knew the anxiety of poverty. Now we are privileged. Once Friends knew the desperation of the powerless. Now we are, many of us, powerful in our communities. Could this be the root of it?
Our continuing concern for Negroes has been for them as individuals. Homes and orphanages were set up by Friends, schools and colleges, social agencies for the colored. We do not mean to minimize the work, the pioneering, and the danger represented by some of these efforts. But the focus was always on the individual casualties of our society and not on the institutions which create the casualties.

Whatever the reason, a number of religious groups are far ahead of Friends in the practice of brotherhood, and we should be thankful for a lesson in humility. We need to ask God for forgiveness and cease our segregated practices. We need to join the revolution for human dignity by throwing our political and economic weight behind extensive social change of the conditions of American Life which breed ghettos and discrimination. At the same time, we must accept interracial marriage, the adoption of children of mixed background, and the fact that our Negro Friends are simply members of our Society who need feel no obligation to be “official Negroes.”
The time has come for another look at Quaker work with the Indians as well. Are we, here too, relying on casework and mission approaches to a problem which is political and economic in its nature? When will we press in nonviolent but powerful ways for the rights of the American Indians?

(to be continued)


At 10:46 AM, Blogger earthfreak (Pam) said...

I would hope that these stories are no longer happening (people being actively turned away)

And yet, I have heard from various people, how difficult it can still be to be African American in the Society of Friends. Often one is the only one in a given meeting. At the last Gathering I attended I attended Meeting for Worship for Racial Healing. I think that nearly all the people of color at the Gathering were there, along with perhaps 4 European Americans, many of whom I knew had African American family members.

I heard reports that at one specific gathering of Friends in the past year, a white keynote speaker used the "n-word" casually (not to refer to African Americans, but someone else he was labelling as oppressed) and the response since then has been somewhat troubling.

My meeting has a number of people of color who attend regularly, but almost all of them are children adopted by white parents. I often wonder how we are doing by these children, and how they will look back on their experience growing up among Friends. So, we have managed to get to a point where interracial adoption (and interracial marriage, I believe) are accepted, but not to a point where we don't have things like "Family Meeting"s that focus on Indian tribes as if they are a thing of the past, a fairy tale, which one can "play" by putting feathers in their hair. - This in a city with a relatively large urban indian popultion. - there are indian art shows, pow wows, indian coffee shops, ojibwe and dakota language classes.... and somehow we think all we can learn about Indians is how William Penn reacted to them.

It's one of those things that makes you want to laugh and cry all at once, how proud we are of our quaker forbears who were truly at the forefront of challenging racism and struggling for harmony, 200 years ago, and sometimes it seems we are still there. Do we really think, as a society, that there has been no work to do since 1865? Or even since 1965? How can we be so blind?

Of course, complaining is the easy part, the question is how can we learn to see? And it's a much harder one.

One thing I believe is amazingly helpful is "beyond diversity 101" - it is expensive, way beyond my reach personally. But my meeting sponsored me to go 3 years ago, and it was transformative.

Of course there are smaller scale things that we could all be doing -listening sessions at our own meetings, challenging each other daily.

I am reminded that I have meant to do something for first day school on this topic, though it's somewhat big and scary. Perhaps you have given me the nudge I need




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