Recognizing White Privilege an Interview with Joan Broadfield

Pastoral Care Support

Joan Broadfield is clerk of PYM’s Ministry for Racial Justice and Equality Working Group which is currently in the early stage of visioning and planning its work. This past April, Joan attended the White Privilege Conference. Her concern for racial justice and equality and pastoral care in our meetings arises from the conviction that caring for others allow us the opportunity to go deeper: to look at the assumptions of race and privilege underneath our actions and our choices.

 Why do you think it is important for Friends engaged in pastoral care to consider the impact of racial justice and specifically white privilege as they approach their work?

Pastoral Care Committees are places where people come together to help support the lives of members and at times to directly assist them in times of difficulty. Examining our actions and choices in the context of helping and supporting others is essential. Looking at things from the perspective of privilege, of either race or class can provide guidance to those helping by thinking through and learning about the assumptions that affect our lives and those who may be different from us.

How does this process, or approach, help pastoral care committee members?

Well, it certainly can help make us humble about the assumptions we carry around with us in our day-to-day lives about race and class and the unintended consequences, historical or personal, of our actions. As I understand pastoral care, it is about caring for the condition of our lives, of ourselves and our families. It is always a good idea to know where our privileges lie in society. Because privilege, and we all have privilege of one sort or another, affects our spirit and our soul.

What about diversity awareness and training? What affect has our concern for creating greater diversity had in our meetings?

Diversity awareness and training is often presented within the narrative of everyone just getting along and adopting the dominate view of the way things are. This is really just the old melting pot metaphor. I prefer the Salad Bowl image. But issues of race and class involve more than just learning to get along. Race and class and privilege need to be considered as important concerns as we engage in the process of spiritual formation as Friends. These issues affect how we bring our witness to the world and how the world receives it.

What is your hope for our understanding of issues of race and class and specifically White Privilege going forward?

My hope is that as we become a more inclusive community that we learn how to integrate and assimilate our differences, but that we do not require assimilation, doing things just one way, in everything. Pastoral Care is about helping Friends within the context of self and community, and thus is interested in the intentions in relationship. By helping Friends turn their hopes for a diverse community into reality, the committee can help them have an impact. Pastoral care committees can lead the way in making the kinds of institutional change that will support real diversity. We can do this and retain what makes our meeting work as a community, one that is inclusive of all of us in a realistic and honest way.