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Grappling with the truth: Undoing racism as a Quaker commitment

Acting in Faith  |  By Lucy Duncan, Sep 13, 2018
End white supremacy light brigade by Joe Brusky

End white supremacy light brigade by Joe Brusky

Photo: Joe Brusky / Joe Brusky via Flickr CC license

Recently a member of the “Quakers engage to end racism” Facebook page posted this statement: “There is too much un-Quakerly bashing of white people on this page.”  

Here’s the response I wrote:  

Can you point to specific instances of “bashing” of individual white people? I see a lot of talk about white people, but that is just a way to talk about white supremacy and the agents who enact it. My friends of color talk about white people to me all the time. Mostly they mean other white people, but they also mean the system of white supremacy carried out by white people. Sometimes I am implicated in that discourse, of course.  

But what this language and talk is about is how deep the systemic behaviors and attitudes that uphold white supremacy are. They are socialized into every white person and consciousness of them is needed to change the way we show up for social justice and our friends of color.  

Understanding the deep systemic racism we carry within us is vital to change things. This is deeply Quaker in my view as is taking concrete action to move people and systems. Nothing is more Quaker.  

Silence or civility is too often what folks think is Quaker. Though I am refreshed in meeting for worship and reground spiritually (and have insights related to my social change work), my sense of Quaker faith is that we are actively upending all that stands in the way of justice, the beloved community, and transforming ourselves and the world to be much closer to our birthright: to feel and operate from our humanity and connection to others.  

There is so much in society that stands in the way of that, and we, as white people, are sometimes deluded about how deep injustice is because we are often not its targets while materially benefiting from the abuse of IBPOC (indigenous, Black, and PoC). For me, working for a world that expresses our birthright is elementally Quaker. Too many of us prefer a comfortable Quakerism that soothes us and shields us from the world instead of centering us for being fighters in the Lamb’s war. 

IBPOC are literally bashed, abused, killed, and kept from work, housing, healthy food, education especially that tells the truth, every day. There is no escape from it. For white folks to interpret people telling the truth of that reality as “bashing” seems fragile and born of disconnection to the truth of the experience of the majority of people in the world.  

Members of the Religious Society of Friends of Truth are too often queasy about the truth part of that. To characterize receiving that truth or being told that truth as “bashing” is deeply problematic, obfuscates reality, and is missing out on how loving it is to be told the truth, to be invited to grapple with reality.  

White cocoons of delusion are killing people every day, including causing climate chaos that is coming for all of us. To characterize the telling of that truth as “bashing” strikes me as an unwillingness to step out of delusion. 

 

 Photo: Poor People’s Campaign action, taken by Tim Franzen of AFSC.

About the Author

Lucy serves as Director of Friends Relations for AFSC. She blogs, organizes Quakers to work for justice, and has helped create AFSC's Sanctuary Everywhere stream of program work. She has been instrumental in the adaptation of Quaker social change ministry as a tool for reclaiming Spirit-guided social change work focused on companioning those most impacted by injustice. She has been a storyteller for 20 years and has worked with Quaker meetings on telling stories for racial justice and of spiritual experience.

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About Friends Relations

Lucy Duncan works with other AFSC staff to foster strong relationships between AFSC and Quakers.

Lucy is AFSC’s Director of Friends Relations. She has been a storyteller for 20 years and has worked with Quaker meetings on telling stories for racial justice and of spiritual experience. She attends Green Street Friends Meeting (PhYM) and lives with her son and partner in a Quaker cemetery.

Christina is the Friends Relations Fellow this year who works closely with Lucy. She was born and raised in London, England and has a background in copywriting. Christina currently lives in the Wissahickon section of Philadelphia.

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