Responses to 2015 Sessions’ Work on Addressing Racism

Addressing Racism

At our 2015 Annual Sessions there was a significant focus on addressing racism, as we approved doing in our January 10th minute of action.  Two Friends, both of whom were active at Sessions and who have been doing the work of Undoing Racism shared their reflections of the experience at Sessions.  Their stories are below, followed by a request for you to share your own reflections for sharing.

A Personal Reflection on Sessions

Wow! This is good! We are finally going to talk about Racism.
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

Racism? What is Racism? I’m not Racist, Am I?
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

Privilege. Supremacy. White privilege. White supremacy.
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

It’s not me! I’ve done this. I’ve lived there. I’ve worked, read, thought, tried.
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

Sensitivity, listening, learning, allowing. Those are too easy – or maybe too hard.
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

OK. I have privilege. I LIVE privilege.
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

March. Teach. Go. Do. Act. Lead. Breathe. I want to DO something!
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

Talk, talk, talk, talk. Watch. Listen. Talk.
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

I don’t like that. I am uncomfortable here, there. Do you need to say those words?
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

I can do this. Let me take charge. I’ve been there.
Why isn’t that good? What IS needed?
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

Look inside? Work on my thoughts? Teach myself? How can that help? The need is so great.
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

These stories can’t be true! Surely someone misunderstood. I tried; really, I tried hard.
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

Money? Give money? But I want to give more, give myself, be included, show I can!
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

It’s too far, too scary, too messy. Tell me what you need in my neighborhood, my comfort zone. I want to feel satisfied when I’m finished.
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

Class, culture, conditioning, comfort. These things are important, too. These need work, too. Why is Racism what is named?
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

I don’t hear what I need to hear, don’t see what I need to see. If I need to do the work myself, this is what I will do! You don’t like it? It’s not the right work?
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

I have privilege. I have dominance. My race/gender/class/education/culture/patriotism is dominant. I know this, but you say I don’t understand it’s power over me.
What should I do? I don’t know what to do.

A Personal Reflection on Sessions

I arrived at 2015 Annual Sessions with an an anticipation of feeling Spirit wash over me where as a community, PYM addressed racism in our Monthly Meetings. I intended to play with myself, Step Up and Step Back, and to purposefully Step Back and allow white Friends to become my white allies. On Saturday, I considered the integrated plenary space to be very fragile, where Friends of Color were particularly vulnerable. Choosing a seat, immediately my experience at the Called Session came back to mind, where there was strong language of “us” and “them” in the worship sharing groups split according to Quarters. In January, it was clear that I was not part of the “us,” and in the opening of the Saturday morning agenda, the use of the word “we” juxtaposed with “our white privilege,” was extremely triggering and reminiscent of that Called Session experience. “Our white privilege” did not pertain to me, and months after the Called Session and now summer, I was still not included in the “us.” It seemed as if there were the Yearly Meeting and Friends of Color as two distinct entities, but that PYM was not inclusive of people of color despite the somewhat integrated plenary space.

It seems that playing Step Up and Step Back was perhaps the wrong approach. In the days that followed, I had dreams of feeling ostracized that I could not shake when I awoke the following mornings. Finally, a full week later, my usual sense of self has returned, but I walk away with a cumulative experience of extreme caution and discernment around which communities I want to be a part of, and whether it is healthy for me and those around me, to put myself in situations where I feel that I do not belong. I will always be a Friend, and no amount of insensitive language will separate me from my Faith, but in the end, Continuous Revelation may lead me to do and say things that are even against my best intentions or what I may anticipate, but I feel that as long as my actions and words are spirit led, that I am making the right decision.

Do you have experiences with our Sessions’ focus on addressing racism that you would like to share? Please let us know your reflections.

We thank Carla White and Joel Wilson for sharing their reflections.