FGC serves the spiritual lives of Quakers by providing you, your meeting and your yearly meeting with programs, events, and insights that invite us into a deeper relationship with the Divine, one another, and the larger society in which we live. Our anti-racist work is grounded in Spirit and calls us to deepen these relationships. Through study, prayer, and worship we can be reminded of the radical acts of Jesus. What will we do when we sink down to the seed and respond to the query “What does justice require of us?” How might we all come out of Worship with a determination to make the world we touch right in the eyes of God?
The murder of George Floyd, the overt racist threat that a white woman, Amy Cooper, made in response to a simple request of a black man, Christopher Cooper, to leash her dog, the astounding percentage of people of color dying from Covid-19, in addition to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor— these events are the tipping point for this current uprising. Yet, all of this rests on the history in the United States of voter suppression, on Jim Crow laws, on the idea of separate but equal, on the failure of reconstruction, on calling some human beings three-fifths of a person, on the system of enslaved black bodies, and ultimately on the consistent compromise of white supremacy politics since 1619.
To Friends of Color whose lives are impacted by systemic racism, we see the hypocrisy and grinding inequality that denies the reality of the seed of God planted in your heart and the heart of every human being. It’s deeply wrong. It’s way past time for sweeping systemic changes across the United States.
We also support your message of the on-going need in majority white Quaker meetings for white Friends to more deeply understand systemic racism, to become more aware of behaviors, and to become more united in facing an inequitable reality.
Part of FGC’s response to these issues has been the Institutional Assessment on Systemic Racism, the establishment of a standing committee to examine and remedy structural racism within FGC, to expand anti-racist programming for Friends of European descent, while also expanding our commitment to dedicated spaces for Friends of Color to gather, both before and now during the COVID-19 crisis and the uprising for racial equality. We will continue to honor these commitments well into the future.
To Friends of European descent, we recognize that white Friends are in different places related to our shared journey around racism. Some of us have been actively working to dismantle racist systems for a while. Others of us are at the start of our journey. Wherever any of us may be on this spectrum is fine…as long as we keep moving towards personal and systemic transformation.
Study. Pray. Listen. Act. To be a people and a nation transformed requires the engagement of all Friends. Emptying oneself of prejudice while dismantling systemic racism is ultimately not the responsibility of people of color. It’s the responsibility of white people--the people who built the system, the people who visibly and invisibly benefit from the system. While changing the system at a national level requires political engagement, ultimately this is deeply spiritual work. It’s about our relationships with one another, with ourselves, and with God. We must all work to see our meetings and the broader society become places where that of God is honored in all people.
Quakers are proud of marching with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., but in the many years since, the culture of white supremacy has militarized our police, made quality health care virtually inaccessible for black and brown people, defunded public education, destroyed black neighborhoods and businesses, and privatized criminal justice into a multi-million dollar business that has jailed millions of black youth for crimes that, when whites perpetrate them, often go lightly punished or not punished at all. It is time for individual Quakers, Quaker Meetings, and Quaker institutions to commit to and expand our actions to dismantle these racist policies.
There are many paths to take to ensure we do not go back to “normal” and instead that we create a new normal--one based on justice. All Quaker meetings, everywhere, can review our history and talk about how we, as current Friends, will respond to this injustice and how we want to be remembered in the future. We can work consistently with FCNL to change U.S. Federal policy. We can seek appointments to state/local committees and task forces that will be created to respond to the current uprising. We can work with our local schools to review the social studies curriculum at all levels with the goal of teaching an understanding of the history of racism and white supremacy since 1619. We can help our local cities to re-imagine community accountability by de-militarizing the criminal justice system and increasing funding for human services as a response to the criminalization of impoverished people of color. We can stay informed, write letters, and engage in dialogue about racism with friends and family. We can also support public officials who share our commitment and run for public office ourselves. We do not expect the road ahead to be easy. A life of conscience can often be difficult. Remember, however, that we are not called to ease. We are called to faithfulness.
Together, we can build a religious society and a nation that affirms the inherent dignity and worth of all human beings—a commitment that should be reflected in our houses of worship, equitable laws, quality schools for all, a principled foreign policy, universal access to healthcare, and living wages. It should also be reflected in the words and deeds of our political leaders.
Be strong in the Spirit. Show love by seeking justice for one another. Know that however long it takes, however difficult the road, we can dismantle systemic racism in our hearts, in our meetings, and across this continent.