Over the years, as Friends General Conference has established programs to eradicate racism among the Religious Society of Friends, I have heard the statement, "Racism hurts everyone."
I've been confused by that, since I myself am not a person of color and I didn't see how I was being hurt.
For the past two years, I've attended the annual national White Privilege Conference and that statement--Racism hurts everyone--has worked on me. But it wasn't until the intersection of two things coming together that my heart and spirit opened to that Truth.
First, a local Quaker friend of European descent pointed me to a quote by White Philadelphia Friend Arlene Kelly:
We are not a homogenous group seeking to become more diverse; we are an incomplete organization seeking to become more whole. --Friends Journal, October 2010The second thing was that I began reflecting on Quakerism's doctrine of the Inner Light. In particular I was thinking of the concept that the more we listen together, and the more we hear from different individuals gathered in worship as to their own discernment and understanding of God's guidance, the closer we get to understanding the full Truth that God wishes for us to know.
When I disallow myself the opportunity to listen to, worship with, and befriend people who are different from me--people of color, immigrants or "new Americans," people who are poor or working class--when I disallow those connections, I am automatically cutting myself off from the Love and Truth that my brothers and sisters in the Spirit have for me and for my White middle-class, US-born peers.
The whole of the Truth cannot be understood without the Whole of people.
If I am regularly worshiping with and seeking Truth primarily with only some of God's children, then I am likely not able to know the Truth that others who are different from me hold, because I won't have access to understanding their experience of the world, of the Light.
In that case, the Truth itself is less than whole, particularly as Quakers of European descent strive to undo racism, understand the complexity of White privilege, and work for justice in the world.
As that awareness began to sink into my heart, I felt a lot of energy and space open up within me. It was as if all those spoken and unspoken cautions about watching out for "this group" or for "that group" just floated away.
While I was "being socialized without my consent"* and without my knowledge, to keep "those people" at arm's length and in a box labeled "CAUTION: Others," I didn't know that I myself was being boxed in, with messages of what I was supposed to think, what I was supposed to say, and how I was supposed to be.
When I came into the Truth that all of us are needed in order to know the Whole of God, I indeed felt freed. And I have never looked back.
*I have looked for a source for the concept of "being socialized without our consent," which I first heard at the White Privilege Conference in 2011 (WPC12) but haven't been able to find who to attribute it to.