Racial & Social Justice

Racial and Social Justice Committee

A working group of concerned Friends, established under the Peace and Social Concerns Committee, which focuses on the issues of racism in the Quaker and wider community by providing support for activities that encourage the Meeting to become involved in outreach programs in the local community and to increase awareness in our own personal and daily lives. Works to make our community more just and equal for those minorities who have been degraded by our society. In collaboration with Adult Class brings outside speakers to discuss issues and books on racial justice.

 


Fellowship of Friends of African Descent Minute
Regarding State Sanctioned Violence

September, 2016

The Fellowship of Friends of African Descent at its 2016 Annual Gathering approved the following minute for public circulation to Friends and concerned communities worldwide:

The Fellowship of Friends of African Descent is a 25 year old Quaker organization that supports the spiritual nurture of Quakers of African descent and provides opportunities for the sharing of our concerns. As those of us in the United States witness the media portrayal of high profile police violence and the resulting racial tensions, we are moved by our compassion for our communities to call for action that will lead to justice and respect, particularly for black men but also for black women and children in America. We stand with those who have identified bigotry, structural racism and state sanctioned violence as historical and continuing sources of senseless suffering and death among our people.

We grieve the loss of any human life, including the lives of police. However, the presence of the police too often seems like an occupying force designed to protect and serve an invisible elite instead of protecting those who reside in our communities. We also recognize that the violence and tragic killing of innocent civilians have touched so many in our communities. We believe that these evil forces cannot be overcome through retribution and retaliation, and can only be overcome through respect, resources and love. Jesus taught us that the love of God and our neighbor is the greatest commandment.

The problems of racism, militarism and violence that we face are rooted in the deeper, less recognized sicknesses of materialism and greed. From the slave trade and plantation economies of the American south to the terroristic subjugation of Jim Crow to the modern-day profits of miseducation and mass incarceration, racial stereotypes have been used to mask and justify the exploitation and denial of economic human rights for people of African descent. As a result, these communities are under-resourced as is evidenced by the lack of jobs, healthcare, quality education and decent housing. In the absence of real opportunities for employment and economic self-sufficiency, underground economies rise up in our communities to fill the gap.

People in these economies are criminalized and prosecuted even though they are only seeking to provide enough resources to support their families. We realize that we cannot have a meaningful conversation about ending racial oppression without also addressing classism, joblessness and wealth inequality.

In response to these realities, we, as Quakers and as people of African descent call for the following:

1. PEACEFORCE. The training, support and employment of a “peaceforce” consisting of police officers and community based peacekeepers, none of whom are armed. The peacekeepers will be local residents who have the community relationships and street credibility (especially with young people) to cultivate the capacity and inclination for the use of non-violent methods for de-escalating conflict. [Returning citizens are an important resource for this work.]

2. PEACE CENTERS. The development and support of `peace centers” in our communities which will provide safe havens and educational, cultural and recreational opportunities for young people in our communities. Quaker Alternatives to Violence trainings can be redesigned to be rooted in the cultural experience of African people. These centers will also function as
spaces where Quaker worship and values can be modelled and developed.

3. COMMUNITY TRAINING. Police training will be ongoing and consistent including sub-conscious bias training that is not just academic but rather is community based. Police departments need to revamp their training so members are trained to deescalate potentially dangerous situations and are not expected to “shoot to kill” in every situation they consider dangerous.

4. DISARMAMENT. Promoting the disarming of our communities (including segments of the police force responsible for minor offenses) through the elimination of handguns, rifles and automatic weapons. We realize that this goal is long term and will require a cultural shift from our current reliance on violence to solve social problems. However, we believe that we are all safer without guns than with them.

In the words of the poet, Nikki Giovanni, “Black love is Black wealth.” We as Quakers of African descent are making a personal commitment to these ends and invite others to join us in this effort. We call on Friends’ organizations to use some part of our substantial corporate
investments to support this work.

Click here to receive a .pdf version.

 


GERMANTOWN MEETING DECLARATION ON RACIAL JUSTICE
January 17, 2011

I
We are members of the Germantown Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends who lift up and affirm, before God, our neighbors and fellow citizens of our nation and the global community, our belief in full and unfettered racial equality. As part of this affirmation we pledge, as we must, to strive to eliminate the personal and structural impediments that obstruct achievement of full racial equality in all parts of our society including the Religious Society of Friends. We dedicate ourselves to give meaning and substance to these commitments in the day to day life of our spiritual community, in our corporate worship, and in our engagement with the larger world as reflected in our meeting’s collective activities, institutional priorities, and allocation of resources.

We take this conscious public step with the full understanding that it is but part of a larger process of learning and direct engagement. We are cognizant of the size, depth, and complexity of the racism that we are confronting. The public position reflects our sense of urgency about our task as well as past experiences with this concern. We have no illusions about the speed or the total impact of the actions that must accompany our stance. There will surely be yet unseen obstacles as we scrutinize our present and future actions through the prism of racial justice.

We embark on this journey knowing that while privileging a few, racism has diminished us all. In all candor, we are not merely pursuing equality for someone else, we seek to redeem ourselves.

WHAT WE KNOW

We start with a basic historical understanding of the institution of slavery in the United States and the devastating effects that slavery had upon its victims and continues to have upon their descendants long after the formal end of the institution itself. The full effects of slavery’s progeny- overt racial discrimination and continuing institutional racism- have yet to be definitively measured or totally comprehended. We have, for the moment, only a few indicators of the detrimental and cumulative impact of racism. But who can calculate the size and quantity of dashed hopes; how do we calibrate dreams deferred?

We have only just begun to grapple with our understanding of the benefits that slavery imparted and continues to give residually to white Americans in economic and social terms; benefits identified as “white skin privilege.” We have not yet come to grips fully with that phenomenon and the extensive violence that has accompanied and sustained that privilege.

As Friends we acknowledge with appropriate humility and considerable pain our own history with slavery and our complicity with its legacies. We have much to answer for. Too often our meetings, despite the early possibilities and the good intentions, have not been exemplary models of multiracialism. Many related Friends institutions, particularly our schools, were achingly slow in becoming racially integrated. The past is now prologue.

In dealing with the legacy of slavery we draw upon and affirm solidarity with those who resisted slavery, those who worked tirelessly to end it, and those who sought to deal positively with the enormous burdens that were placed on freed slaves after slavery’s end and many years beyond. Quakers were very much in these ranks, disproportionate in influence to their numbers. We see ourselves continuing in their spirit. We would also identify ourselves with the modern civil rights movement, as a measure of what committed people can do in the face of deeply rooted racism. We positively note that because of actions taken over many years, many of us have seen major social changes in a relatively short period of time. Since the 1960s, the legal rationales for racial discrimination in major sectors of American life are now mostly gone. African Americans are employed in all sectors of the work force, and they are no longer invisible in public life. And, of course, an African American now holds the highest elected office in the land.

WHY WE MUST ACT

But to state these undeniable advances is also to acknowledge the enormous changes that must still take place. White racism remains a pervasive fact of American life. Certainly not as overt as it once was, racism is a malignant force deeply entrenched in all aspects of our daily lives and enmeshed in our social and economic structures. It can be seen in the higher percentage of African Americans among the poor and the unemployed; their disproportionate numbers among those who drop out of school, who die younger; and who are incarcerated. These disparities are glaring as measured by relative and absolute income levels, and in the availability of health care, and of quality, affordable housing. The list of material disparities goes on, operating in tandem with many internalized social attitudes shaped by centuries of the ideology of white supremacy.

As members of a spiritual community that resides somewhat uneasily in the midst of a predominantly African American community in a city and world made up predominantly of people of color, Germantown Meeting has struggled with the implications of that fact. We have chosen to embrace our status but not the status quo. We see our position as one that challenges our beliefs and opens the way for our growth as a moral community; a community that will add to the sum total of social justice.

Our affirmation as a meeting committed to racial justice comes after a rich, ongoing learning process. That process has included communal learning and sharing about continuing struggles for racial equality; a preliminary examination of the specifics of race relations in Germantown and Philadelphia; and a profound and sobering exploration of the extended encounter of African Americans with the Society of Friends. All of this has added to our sense of urgency. We must now act, in myriad ways, to implement our vision and to build upon the best of the Quaker tradition, experientially.

We do not know with any absolute certainty where our commitment and related activities will ultimately take us. There will likely be mistakes, false starts, and various inadequacies. But our collective wisdom also tells us that our understanding of the need for racial justice brings us to this point and pushes us forward and outward. We anticipate learning more; more about the intersection of this concern with class and gender; more about the shifting racial and cultural dynamics of our communities; and more about ourselves and our capacity to transform ourselves and the world we live in.

II
WHAT WE MUST NOW DO

There are no single activities that can end racism, nor can it be done by our meeting alone. We would support the leadings of individual members who feel called to act. But our early task is to focus and to then to learn from the sum total of our work. What follows are but a few activities that Germantown Meeting can undertake as part of its commitment:

  • Continue our internal anti-racism education process
  • Identify specific, discrete local projects that can be supported by the meeting and sustained by its members that work directly with racism’s effects such as projects of support of public school students or of prisoners;
  • Increase our collaboration with other faith communities in our neighborhood to explore the possible undertaking of joint activities;
  • Explore the meeting’s community profile and the possible expansion of its utility (particularly its public venues) to the broader community;
  • Contact other Friends meetings and the Philadelphia Yearly
    Meeting to explore future collaboration and work on racial justice;
  • Establish a fund that can strategically assist local initiatives in small but significant ways;
  • Connect and collaborate with other work, within and without the meeting, that deal with other dimensions of this mandate such as immigration, Native Americans, economic exploitation, and militarism, as well as examine connections with other work (climate change, for example.) that may not seem as directly connected;
  • Develop a regular audit of our meeting’s work in the light of this charge.

Click here to receive a .pdf version.

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