Uneasy, humble, encouraged – local Friends’ anti-racist workshops

Co-facilitators Pearl Johns and Kirsty Philbrick summarise the Anti-racist: how? learning groups which were organised as part of the Quaker youth project.

Our testimonies to equality and truth demand that we engage in a drive towards real change, turning our declared intentions into reality. We are called to commit to becoming an actively anti-racist church. Individually we are all on different stages of this journey, which is based on learning, moves through acknowledgment and on to commitment to action based on discernment.

Meeting for Sufferings minute, Dec 2020

“Uneasy; humbled, encouraged”. In the words of one participant, this is how the Anti-racist: how? learning group for more ages left them feeling. The discussion groups (Nov-Dec and Feb-March) brought together Friends from teenage to octogenarian and from Trowbridge to Weston-Super-Mare to think about racism – within ourselves, our communities and institutions.

Creating a space for groups of committed participants, sharing resources and facilitating challenging discussions enabled us to unpick some of our own unconscious bias, learn to see covert racism more clearly and to think how we can challenge racism more actively.

‘Uneasy and humble’ – this is necessarily uncomfortable work. It is hard to look at and accept our own white privilege and to interrogate racial inequalities that reveal how much more difficult it often is for people of colour in our institutionally racist society.‘Encouraged’ – having a safe place to delve deeper into these complex issues fostered a strong sense of community and support within the group, which led to personal and honest sharing. We’re all emboldened by knowing that others are on the same journey and grappling with the same issues.

The learning groups created a space in which we could learn from the rich diversity of a range of experiences, both from other participants and the voices of people of colour we heard in the videos podcasts and articles. Participants were keen to share some of the experience with others, so here’s a few questions to get started:

· How can you be more aware of your own racial prejudice and unconscious bias?

· Would it be helpful for Quakers to acknowledge our history is entangled with slavery, to think more deeply about reparations and how we can be anti-racist together in our actions?

· Can you see a way through the struggles to imagine the richness of a world which truthfully welcomes and values diversity equally?

This work may sound overwhelming, intimidating, and unrewarding. I won’t lie to you: It is. You will become overwhelmed when you begin to discover the depths of your internalised white supremacy. You will become intimidated when you begin to realise how this work will necessitate seismic change in your life. You will feel unrewarded because there will be no black or brown people rushing to thank you for doing this work. But if you are a person that believes in love, justice, integrity and equity for all people, then you know that this work is non-negotiable. If you are a person who wants to become a good ancestor, then you know that this is some of the most important work that you will be called to do in your lifetime

from Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad: hear audiobook excerpt here

The workshops heard quotations from a range of black writers and activists including Layla Saad, a UK-born Muslim now living in Qatar, author of Me and white supremacy.

All are welcome to join WWESAM Sun 7 March 1400-1515 for a session Racism and Empathy run by BYM diversty and inclusion officer Edwina Peart and Kirsty Philbrick. Link https://zoom.us/j/925325225. Usual Bath Quakers’ password (contact us if needed).

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