What Is This Thing Called White Privilege and What are we at CFM Doing About it?

By Alice Anderson

 On Saturday, Oct.1, 24 Charlottesville Friends met with Elizabeth DuVerlie and Dave Etheridge of BYM’s Working Group on Racism for a daylong workshop in which we explored white privilege and its effects and considered what we as members of CFM want to do about it.  The conference was an outgrowth of a BYM initiative to help local meetings move along the continuum described in On Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization, as well as an outgrowth of the work of the Waking Up White Friendly Circle and the earlier efforts of Elizabeth Shillue and other Friends to work on antiracism efforts at CFM and in our Charlottesville community, bringing the film I’m not Racist, Am I?  to the Paramount, Tandem Friends School and our local public schools.

Meeting as a large group, in small groups, and in dyads we spoke honestly about our experiences with privilege and suffering and our yearnings to build a more inclusive community where all of us can safely be more vulnerable to one another.

Much of our time together was spent in personal sharing in these various groups. We started the day by literally wearing our privilege and pain on our sleeves (inherited wealth, education, home ownership, having two parents, being a white male… on one shoulder; being female, growing up in one parent households, having experienced sexual violence, growing up Jewish, being gay … on the other) then discussed with each other how these advantages and difficulties affect how we see ourselves and move in the world.

DuVerlie and Etheridge introduced us to some key concepts and led us through role plays. “Critical Humility” was one key concept, defined as, “the practice of remaining open to the fact that our knowledge is partial and evolving while at the same time being committed to speaking up and taking action in the world based on our current knowledge, however imperfect.”

We explored a question raised by BYM Young Friends at Annual Sessions, “How do we work toward creating a community of different people, rather than just being a community that lets different people in?”  How can we continue to grow in our efforts to become the Beloved Community?

We shared a delicious meal prepared by Mi Canton Central American restaurant.

The afternoon was spent talking more about our worshipping community and ways it can be more welcoming and inclusive, an ongoing and unfinished effort. Dave Etheridge broke us into groups that explored queries based on possibilities from 25 Things We Can Do to Lower Barriers to People of Color in Our Meetings (see below) and we made commitments to follow through as way opens.

One way opening is a Friendly Circle that will continue exploring these ideas, meeting on first Wednesday nights starting December 7 from 7-8:30 p.m.

I valued the deep sharing, the opportunity to know each other more intimately, the chance to share some of my own pain and to acknowledge those privileges that protect me. I am eager to see how we together will continue this important work of more fully becoming Beloved Community with and for each other.

The Baltimore Yearly Meeting Working Group on Race’s  Ideas for Lowering Barriers to Involvement of People of Color (POC) in Our Meetings 

Friends should feel free to begin with whichever ideas seem most doable and sensible to them.

  • Recruit a small group within the Meeting that is willing to focus on efforts to moving the Meeting to becoming more multicultural
  • Let people know we exist in ways other than “word of mouth” such as print, broadcast and online media
  • Make sure information about the Meeting shows up in communities of color and in media read by those communities
  • Conduct First Day programs that assume the presence of children of color and work to meet the needs of all children
  • Conduct workshops on how racism affects both whites and POC
  • Conduct workshops on understanding microagressions
  • Encourage white Friends to get to know individual POC
  • Encourage Friends not to let their fears of interracial missteps–no matter how well founded those fears are–keep them from engaging with people of other ethnicities
  • Increase emphasis on pastoral care
  • Become actively involved in local community social justice work that is led by people of color.
  • Learn how POC houses of worship support their membership and consider using similar approaches in the Meeting
  • Learn from denominations that have been making an effort to be more multicultural (e.g. UU and UCC)
  • Learn from local congregations that have been successfully multicultural (less than 80% of any one race) for many years
  • Conduct regular antiracism audits of Meeting
  • Work with the BYM camping program
  • Provide meals rather than snacks at Meeting events
  • Reduce costs of attending Meeting events either through Meeting subsidies or scholarships or through reliance on free-will offerings
  • Be alert to specific barriers individual POC may encounter in becoming involved and work to overcome them
  • Seek feedback from POC and take it seriously
  • Make sure any POC involved in Meeting activities are heard when they speak
  • Help individual POC who show up several times to become more involved in Meeting work
  • Insure that photos and graphic art used in Meeting activities include POC
  • Post information in the Meeting House in both Spanish and English
  • Develop joint youth program with a multicultural or mostly POC congregation
  • Look for resources in the “Black Studies” department of the local university