As simplistic as this sounds, my experiences over the past several years lead me to the conclusion that many of the problems we are facing today stem from our continued, voluntary segregation. Most of us end up living in neighborhoods of people who tend to be of our race and economic status, although that is noticeably less true of the younger generation. So we tend to spend our time in islands of people like ourselves. This makes it easy to fall into the trap of accepting stereotypes, and does not foster understanding and healthy relationships. This is not helped by the corporate control of media, suppressing stories that don’t serve their purpose.
I’ve written extensively about my experiences with the Kheprw Institute (KI) and Quaker Social Change Ministry program (you can use the search box on this blog page to search for articles with those terms in them). One of the things KI does, besides their primary focus on mentoring youth, is to organize and provide the space for open community discussions about the difficult issues we face. It is hard to express what a profound effect my friendships with the people at KI have had on my life, and in helping me to begin to better understand racial injustice. What KI is doing is building the Beloved community that Martin Luther King and so many others have urged us to create.
But the Beloved community has to encompass everyone–that is the point. White people need to see these opportunities, and we need to step up and do our part to build it.
That is why I got involved with the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) new program, Quaker Social Change Ministry, which provides a framework to help Friends do this very thing, create Beloved community. This program emphasizes the concept of accompaniment, which means finding people and organizations that are experiencing injustice, to become friends with them, and engage with their work. I, and North Meadow Friends, are very fortunate to have the KI community and their willingness to work with us.
These types of engagement are crucial for white people. Hundreds of years of building advantages for white people into our European societies have achieved their purpose of making this seem acceptable. I think a white person needs to reach the realization of how unacceptable those advantages are, and then you can begin to change your life such that you don’t accept those privileges, and can begin to live a more just life yourself.
I do want to state one important caution, if this is new to you. I think the natural reaction of a white person who has just begun to understand these things is to turn to those in communities impacted by injustice, and ask them to teach us what we can do to begin to make things right. That is NOT the right thing to do. Imagine how you would feel if, after generations of these conditions, the very people who, intentionally or not, supported these conditions then come to you and expect you to tell them how to fix the problem.
The way white people learn more about these injustices is simply by spending time with the people in these communities, and you will clearly see for yourself what they are subjected to. But please don’t add to their burden by expecting them to educate you.
As I wrote yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised when a number of my friends of color indicated that they liked the graphic below that I shared on Facebook. This is an example of how we build bridges, and the Beloved community together. I urge you to share either this graphic (you can right mouse click on the graphic to save it), or something similar, to show that you are open to making these connections and building bridges.