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2016 Yearly Meeting Minute on White Supremacy
Our hearts were touched earlier this week when we heard the pain and honesty in the reports of the experiences of Friends of color and other attenders at the 2016 FGC Gathering and in the report from several Friends who attended the April 2016 White Privilege Conference in Philadelphia. We felt the spirit move us to affirmation and action. The clerk requested that we hold a threshing session to determine our initial step. (Minute 2016-38)
LVM Shelton and David Haines reported on the discernment of these Friends and proposed a minute for our discernment.
The body engaged in a deep, vulnerable and extended exercise in response to the proposed minute. We truly labored over the work and traveled over the rocky ground we needed to traverse.
Some were uncomfortable with the words “white supremacy” and “colonized” in the minute. These are strong words; one Friend described them as “brutal”. Not everyone present agreed that these words are accurate as a description of our condition. We do not share a common understanding of these words. Friends made many suggestions of other words or phrases we might use together to express how we are affected by the pervasive structure of racism and power in our culture—“white privilege,” “complicit in” and “wounded by” were suggested. Others felt that although these are hard words they are honest. “Supremacy” refers to a system that empowers white people. “Colonized” is an accurate word for how we are inhabited by the culture without our consent. Fear or denial of a hard truth causes us to forget our deep connections with each other. We need to release our fear to hear each other clearly.
We are each only able to truly speak from and know the world from our own experience.
We heard how the experience of Friends of color and the experience of white Friends differ even within our beloved Quaker communities and gatherings; even this week at Sessions. Only a few among us know first hand the experience of “driving while black”, or the constant fear of wondering if our children are safe, even when simply leaving the campus of Castleton University to walk to town to get a milkshake.
We long to find the right words, but we do not know the right words. Yet we are clear we want to do this work. When we know Truth experientially, but do not know each other’s experience, we only know a portion of the Truth.
This minute is an important instance of speaking Truth to power. This minute represents the hard truth of Friends of color. The largely white Yearly Meeting is the power that needs to receive this Truth.
We want to grow; we want to become whole. We have received this minute and have been exercised. We want to invite others into the same experience. With our hearts broken open we approved the following minute; uniting with it with both joy and pain. This is the truth God has brought us to at this time. We feel the Love in these words.
We are complicit in white supremacy. We at New England Yearly Meeting have been “colonized” by our white supremacist culture and fall short of our full potential as a gathered body of Quaker Meetings because of this colonization.
We commit to engaging in interrupting white supremacy in ourselves:
- within individuals
- in our meetings
- and at all system levels of NEYM
To start this, we ask Permanent Board to explore an external cultural competency audit of New England Yearly Meeting.
We support Friends General Conference, an organization of which we are a part, in its efforts to interrupt white supremacy in its organization.
We commit to support fundraising by the New England Yearly Meeting FGC committee to raise $4,000 from our membership and our monthly meetings by the end of 2016. These funds will be available to FGC towards the cost of an external cultural competency audit if FGC decides to have one conducted. If more than $4,000 is raised, we direct the Permanent Board of NEYM to find use for the additional funds to support the work of interrupting white supremacy.
The clerk asked us to go forward in love, in confidence, and boldness, knowing that God is with us.