Friday, August 12, 2005

An Important Letter from Black Friends

Friends,

I recently received the following open letter to Friends everywhere from Black Friends who attended New York Yearly Meeting in Silver Bay this year. I have not yet seen it mentioned in other blogs, though I certainly hope it will be. Meanwhile, I offer it here for whatever exposure this blog can give it.

In Friendship,
Rich
P.S. Further posts in the dialog about Quakerism and Christianity are under preparation (lest anyone think I've forgotten).

August 2005

An open letter to Friends everywhere:

Language has been used to identify our people since the first one of us was captured, shackled, and shipped in bondage to America. We have been “nigras,” “niggers,” “Negroes,” “colored,” “African-American” and “People of African descent.” But always we have been bound together by our Blackness. For us, living in the United States has meant living in a country with racism at the core of its laws, belief systems, language, and religion.
This summer, in a spirit of love, we attended the 310th New York Yearly Meeting. We came, in the words of Vanessa Julye, our African American keynote speaker, to “seek God’s will together as we cracked open the seed of racism.” We heard stories of interracial childhood friendships and of scientists attesting that we are all one. We affirm these stories. We also experienced some difficult but healing conversations. However, what we want to lift up in this open letter is the reality of racism today.
Some Friends in NYYM are not aware of the history of racism among Friends and how that history impacts us today. Vanessa Julye and Donna McDaniel, authors of Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship, focus on the relationship of Quakers of European descent and African Americans in North America from the pre-colonial times to the present. They write “Research has revealed ambivalence and ambiguity in Friends’ relationships with African Americans throughout their history.” And that “North American Friends who, even as they strongly advocated for the freedom and education of enslaved African Americans, were reluctant to invite African Americans into membership into their own Society.”

We strongly urge Friends to invite Vanessa (quakervjulye@earthlink.net) and Donna (music1@charter.net) to visit their meetings.
Working on increasing Friends’ awareness of racism, as a step toward its eradication, is difficult, exhausting and painful. As Black Friends, we experienced much pain and anger at this summer’s Yearly Meeting sessions. Nevertheless, we still want to continue to address these issues. In order to nurture our continued participation in Yearly Meeting sessions as we do this work, we are asking that in 2006 Friends of Color have a time and place to discuss concerns with each other in an area that is separated from other Yearly Meeting activities.
We want to include the Yearly Meeting’s children in this work. They are our future; they are more flexible and less set in their belief systems and behavior. The sooner we can increase their awareness of racism, its effect on all of us and the importance of eradicating it to restore our humanity, the sooner it will happen.
In New York too many young people locked up in detention are children of color charged with non-violent offenses. They come from the poorest neighborhoods and the lowest performing schools. The New York State Court of Appeals has ruled that the state has been short-changing city pubic school funding for years. Governor Pataki is contesting the ruling.
Although New York State is majority White (62%), its prison population is majority Black and Hispanic (82%). They too come from the poorest neighborhoods with the lowest performing schools. Most have substance abuse issues. But instead of being treated in drug rehabilitation programs they are incarcerated in upstate New York prisons. We can also follow the shackles from the plantations to the projects to the prisons in Connecticut and New Jersey.
In drawing state legislative districts, New York uses Census Bureau data that counts the state’s urban Black and Hispanic prisoners as residents of the mostly White and rural prison counties rather than as residents of the home communities in which they resided prior to incarceration, and to which they will return to. According to the National Voting Rights Institute:
This practice has an historical parallel and bears a striking resemblance to the original ‘Three-Fifths” clause of the United States Constitution, which allowed the south to obtain enhanced representation in congress by counting disenfranchised slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of congressional apportionment.
We will continue to work on removing the shackles that bind us and we invite all Friends of Color to contact us at hgfreedom@earthlink.net. We encourage Friends of European descent, who are led to participate in this work, to contact White Friends Working to End Racism at jeffhitchcock@euroamerican.org. We ask that the NYYM Black Concerns Committee compile a resource list that Quakers can use in advancing this work. We ask that the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent post our open letter on their website. And last, but certainly not least, we ask that those gathering for the August Many Gifts One Spirit Retreat for Friends of Color, pray for Friends working to achieve a blessed and whole community.
In Friendship,
Maria Arias (Brooklyn Meeting)
Ernestine Buscemi (Morningside Meeting)
Frederica Azania Clare (Fifteenth Street Meeting)
Charley Flint (Rahway & Plainfield Meeting)
Cora Mighty (Unadilla Meeting)
Stanford Mighty (Unadilla Meeting)
Tracy Parham (Rahway & Plainfield Meeting)
Leroy Mahesh Thomas (Scarsdale Meeting)
Helen Garay Toppins (Morningside Meeting)

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27 Comments:

Blogger Martin Kelley said...

Friends might get a flavor of the talk Vanessa Julye gave at New York Meeting sessions by reading the excerpts of talks she and Donna McDaniel gave last summer, at New England and Baltimore Yearly Meeting sessions: Religious Society of Friends’ historical relationship with African Americans.

6:09 PM, August 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for passing this letter on, Rich. Likewise, thanks for the link, Martin. I learned a great deal today.

Dan T. (PacYM)

10:06 PM, August 12, 2005  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

Thanks, Rich. One thing I love about Quaker bloggers is that we each seem to have our not-so-quiet-fingers in different little pots all over Quakerdom.

Blessings,
Liz, The Good Raised Up

4:06 PM, August 14, 2005  
Blogger thomas71970jones said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:31 PM, August 14, 2005  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

note: I dislike removing comments from my blog. It's hard for me to imagine any actual comment about my posts that would warrant this.
The comment from thomas7197ojones that I removed was, however, blatant spam totally unrelated to the topic at hand. In particular, it was a promotion of some kind of stock investing scheme.

8:02 AM, August 15, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:53 AM, August 15, 2005  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

As a follow-up on this post, I would be interested to know of any Meetings that take up the suggestion of this letter from Black Friends to invite Vanessa Julye or Donna McDaniel to visit them. I will forward this suggestion to my own Meeting at our next monthly business session (In September).
- - Rich Accetta-Evans

1:52 PM, August 15, 2005  
Blogger James Chang said...

I think that there is a somewhat ethnic component in the Quaker experience, which must be transcended if we were truly to be children of the Light.

In fact, the SoF is a band of men and women from a very small segment of the American society-at-large. A friend (and former Friend) once remarked to me that the Society is almost like an ethnic group to her (white, Anglo-Saxon, of English descent) and culturally it is somehow unwelcoming to people who are raised in other traditions.

On the other hand, I strongly detest the imposing of political orthodoxy in our discussion of policy issues. Whereas it is true that genuine faith ought to reflect itself in daily practice, the question of "how" is a totally different one.

I hate quoting theorists here but there have been alternative theories (which I think are somehow valid) proposed by political scientists like John DiIulio (not that I am a fan of his theory) which attempts to establish the necessity of harsh law enforcement policies in inner city areas.

I am not saying that these people are right and that the Quaker activists mentioned in the blog are wrong. I am simply saying that Friends should not seek to establish a "liberal" orthodoxy in policy discussions and then try to shove it down everyone else's throat. Reading the "proclamation" gave me the impression that whoever does not agree with the author must be a racist fascist totalitarian. There is only one Truth and we as Friends should strive to discern it. Not to issue some decree-like documents which states only one's own persuasion.

11:26 AM, August 17, 2005  
Blogger James Chang said...

One evil of racism is that it imposes rigidly defined identities on people regardless of whether they want them or not.

One feature that struck me in the "proclamation" is the repeated use of notions such as "our people." If the scientists are right (which I believe they are), then race ought to be social construct. If race really is a social construct, it can be abolished via social means. In that case, isn't it contrary to the end of ending racism for Black Friends activists to refer to people of African descent as "our people"?

On the other hand, ethnicity (which is language-and-culture-based) makes perfect sense. So yes a West-African may perfectly refer to himself as a Yoruba or a Hausa-Falani, but to lump all Africans into one group and insist that they are one people--this, to me, somehow works against the ideal of abolishing the notion of race.

11:33 AM, August 17, 2005  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

Welcome to James Chang, who I don't think has posted here before. He has an interesting blog called Just Curious, which I will add to my sidebar soon.

I agree with James' friend who said that the Society of Friends "...is almost like an ethnic group to her (white, Anglo-Saxon, of English descent) and culturally it is somehow unwelcoming to people who are raised in other traditions". This is something felt not only by some African Americans but also by any number of people from various backgrounds who I have known to visit meetings and to feel either judged or condescended-to. Not everyone, of course, but it definitely happens and I think we should look at why.

On the other hand, I don't know where James is coming from with his comment: "I am simply saying that Friends should not seek to establish a 'liberal' orthodoxy in policy discussions and then try to shove it down everyone else's throat." . I don't see in the letter from Black Friends of NYYM any attempt to establish or impose an orthodoxy, nor to shove anything down anyone's throat. I see only a clear expression of their concerns.

I also don't understand why James says that "Reading the 'proclamation' gave me the impression that whoever does not agree with the author must be a racist fascist totalitarian." Certainly the letter (not a "proclamation" by the way, just a letter) doesn't say anything like that explicitly. James, could you explain more specifically what it is that gives you that impression?

- - Rich

5:01 PM, August 18, 2005  
Blogger James Chang said...

It is a vice on my part to overstate things at times. I think my second comment is more objective than my first, since I have, still do, and will always insist that peoplehood be founded upon something other than the shape of our skulls. In England and France, this could be done by establishing peoplehood upon shared-history and language, and in this Nation, there are other criteria. If we were to affirm the unity of the American peoplehood, we will have to abolish race or any factor other than a simple respect for the Constitution as they are mere social constructs. This the Supreme Court did, in Brown v. Board and even more importantly in Loving v. Virginia. So in this sense it is not acceptable at all for black and white people to be racially equal. Their racial id should be abolished altogether.

Now, the black Friends in the letter referred to Americans of African descent who had suffered under the heinous institutions of slavery and segregation as "our people"; and I find this to be unacceptable. We as Friends should be equally outraged regardless of what color or nationality the victims of slavery were.

This, is the hunch of my second post.

Regarding my first post, I do believe that the said Friends are attempting to establish a certain kind of atmosphere not hospitable towards frank discussion of social issues such as high incarceration rate for black people. As I said, it is assumed in the letter in the first place that incarceration is never an effective and humane method in dealing with social problems. And this position is given forth with an indignant tone. I suppose this has been a traditional stance on Friends' part, but there are political scientists who argue otherwise, and whose voice should be heard. For example, John DiIulio argued in mid-90s that since most violent crimes in this Nation are intra-racial, the incarceration of black individuals with long records of past conviction may be a necessity if peace were to be restored in pre-dominantly black neighborhoods. Now I am not a big fan of DiIulio, but as an important policy expert, his voice should be heard.

And yes the indignant, or concerned, voice of the signers does give me the impression that they are expecting the following answer, namely, that whenever there is crime, it must have been the society's fault, and therefore, we should so on and so forth...

Again, Rich, I do not mean to sound defensive here, and I hope my comments have not been taken as apologies for the 'establishment.'

5:29 PM, August 18, 2005  
Blogger Lorcan said...

Dealing with ads ( spam ) on our blogs... Hi Rich... I have taken about 10 such messages off my blog. What I now do, is post a post not bills message at the top of my blog... I change the date each time I put a new post up, so it is always the first entry, it attracts all the spam, so as to keep the spam out of your conversations and you can take the out at your leasure. All the best
lor

6:04 PM, August 18, 2005  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

It's good to hear from Lorcan here again. For now, the spamming on my blog seems to have been abated, so I'll hold off on any "Post No Bills" solution.

James Chang makes some valid points but also says some things that are confusing or troubling, at least to me.

He says "If the scientists are right (which I believe they are), then race ought to be social construct. If race really is a social construct, it can be abolished via social means. In that case, isn't it contrary to the end of ending racism for Black Friends activists to refer to people of African descent as 'our people'? "
I agree that race is a social construct rather than biological/natural phenomenon. In fact, Vanessa Julye - who the Black Friends commended to us - has made the same point in her public speeches. Still, that "social construct" has a pretty powerful impact on the way things are and can hardly be ignored. If any group of folks with a common history that is conditioned by this "social construct" feels that they are or have become "a people" then I can't see why other folks would need or want to interfere with that. Nor do I see why accepting the reality of a "social construct" here and now necessarily interferes with the long-range goal of inter-racial or non-racial justice and community. This is a debatable point and James is certainly entitled to his own view. Yet it troubles me that he says it is "unacceptable" for Black Friends to speak of former slaves as "our people". I don't think either or James or I are in a postion to accept or not accept anyone's decision to identify with a specific group.

It's commendable that James is able to say "It is a vice on my part to overstate things at times." He is not alone in that boat. Probably all of us do this at times. Yet it really is, or can be, a "vice" and should not be taken lightly. In particular, James has now said more than once that he thinks the authors of the letter are trying to impose an orthodoxy, or to cram something down someone's throat. In his most recent post he says it slightly more mildly "I do believe that the said Friends are attempting to establish a certain kind of atmosphere not hospitable towards frank discussion of social issues such as high incarceration rate for black people. " This is a serious charge, but James still hasn't said why he makes it. I understand that he disagrees with the stand the letter writers are taking on incarceration, but why does he think they would keep him from discussing it frankly? Is it just that they took this stand? Is it something they specifically said in the course of their letter? Or is this based on left-over feelings from some other debate at some other time? I think the question of why imprisonment falls disproportionately on racial minorities, including Blacks, is a very complicated one. I think racism is one factor, and the letter from Black Friends points up some good reasons for thinking so. If James thinks otherwise, then it should be possible to discuss why and how. But no such discussion can be held if one side of the question begins by stating without evidence that the other side is "imposing an orthodoxy" .

I hope I haven't been too harsh in saying all this. It isn't just James I'm talking to. I think that the more emotion-charged any debate becomes the more crucial it is for all the participants to be as careful as possible to speak for their own positions without needing to disparage others'.

- - Rich Accetta-Evans

2:38 PM, August 19, 2005  
Blogger Lorcan said...

Hi James:
There is a great deal of power to things that are named... more than are... I would ask you to read Race Matters by Cornel West, Faces at the Bottom of the Well and And We Are Not Saved by Derrick Bell... you may find them interesting, on point and informative, and Derricks books are, in a word... fun
lor

4:42 PM, August 19, 2005  
Blogger Lorcan said...

And... a short comment from me... I, just like Richard, and my wife Genie, and you, James, have a great great etc... grandmother who lived in the rift valley of Africa. However, I can - generally, walk down Park Ave. at 3 AM and not be racially profiled. Race matters.
lor

4:46 PM, August 19, 2005  
Blogger James Chang said...

Eh, I have read law review articles by Derrick Bell, one time Weld Professor of Law at Harvard and Dean of the Oregon Law School, and his scathing comments on scholars who disagree with him on race issues, such as Randall Kennedy (also of Harvard Law School) struck me as partisan accusations.

He pleaded "Randy" (who is black) to start standing up for his "own people" and stop providing ammunition to enemies of civil rights, defined by none other than Bell himself. You see the problem here? Yes the work of a scholar ought to be normative (for "the point though, is to change the world," K. Marx), but the normative implication of one's scholarly work should never affect one's positive observation of ths society (Adam Schaff, another radical Marxian philosopher.) Bell went too far in that he is requiring Randy to first come up with a normative conclusion and then try to fit in his studies as rapport.

In fact, this is precisely why I got infuriated by the decree-like tone of the letter on this blog. It was, I believe, in the 70s, that certain disciples of Critical Theory in this country started to extend their influence into arenas of policy studies, such as the law.(who, in my humble opinion, got the gist of neo-Marxism all wrong) It was then that it was argued by people such as Derrick Bell and Duncan Kennedy that institutions such as the common law could all be boiled down into simple identity politics, defined along class, gender and racial lines, and that the role of the scholar is primarily that of an advocate on a particular class' behalf, not an investigator.

But this is utterly false. Class/Color consciousness should never be the point of departure. The real individual should. It is through the study of the real (not abstract) individual that we realize what kind of consciousness they own. So instead of coming up with abstract notions of the "oppressed black men," scholars should look at how the black men in real life are being oppressed. And if the situation has been improving, say it. There is a reason why I respect W.E.B. Du Bois more than Cornel West and this is why. You have ideology on one hand and science on the other. And together with Marx I think it's now time for us to abolish ideology. Race, and racial identity, is one of them.

5:16 PM, August 19, 2005  
Blogger James Chang said...

Here's an article by Professor Derrick Bell, of New York University School of Law. The tone is strikingly similar to that of the Black Friends mentioned on this blog.

Friends, please let me know if you think Prof. Bell's notion of academic research is objective or not:
http://www.wpunj.edu/~newpol/issue25/bell25.htm

5:24 PM, August 19, 2005  
Blogger James Chang said...

I feel that I should add one last thing: I am truly sorry if I have not been tender in my language and temperament. Tenderness, one of the most cherished Quaker values, has been known to me only since my convincement, and I am striving to become more tender. I apologize to anyone who is in any way offended by my wording.

Nevertheless, I wish to re-state that I believe firmly in what I have written here before, even when I do need to re-phrase them.

For example, instead of saying it is "unacceptable" for Black Friends to consider themselves a people apart as opposed to members among God's people or "mere men", I should have said "it saddens me greatly that..."

6:12 PM, August 19, 2005  
Blogger Joe G. said...

Hey, James,

Thanks for your passionate response to this subject. Of course, we all need to be "tender" as Friends like to put it.

OTH, I sometimes wonder if that is a code word for being anglo-saxon, protestant in our manner with each other when we disagree (the raising of the voice is always bad, being passionate about anything, other than being cheerful, is to be avoided - just try and tell that to a group of Italians or African-Americans, for example! :)).

anyway,

Is your concern that the tone of the letter and the assertion of the signers is that it advocates an "Identity politics" point of view to the issue of racisms within the Society?

Alas, I'm not familiar with the writers that you refer to so I am trying to understand better what your concerns are. Your critique reminds me of some of the critiques used towards Identiy politics that came to its highest expression here in the STates during the late 1960's through part of the early 1980's.

OK. enough of that. Very interesting!

2:03 PM, August 20, 2005  
Blogger James Chang said...

Hi Beppe,

Thanks so much. You have spoken my mind. The central issue I have with identity politics is that it is in essence Idealist in that the point of departure of the theorist is not the "real man," or real person, but rather a fetishized notion of an abstract person possessing all the social relations of an "average Caucasian/Asian/African/Native American." It is an odd twist of Neo-Marxism because the theorists in this tradition, such as the Critical Legal Theorists, somehow manage to inject Idealist elements into a structure otherwise quite objective. It is as Idealist as the Evangelical Christian's notion of Christian Personalism, i.e. we assume that individuals are inherently sinful in identical ways, and not affected by the environment at all.

Regarding tenderness, I believe it is an inward state of mind and heart, rather than outward behavior. I wasn't tender in my heart yesterday, and I am truly sorry for it. On the other hand, there has been a Friend of Italian descent who mentioned to me the somehow distinctly Anglo-Saxon milieu of a typical Friends Meeting and how it may cause misunderstandings at times.

10:45 PM, August 20, 2005  
Anonymous QuaCarol said...

a fetishized notion of an abstract person

But, James, I'm confused. In lumping the signers of the letter together as adherents of Identity Politics, aren't you fetishizing the notion of an abstract person? in this case the collection of persons who signed the letter?

What does that phrase mean?

8:09 AM, August 21, 2005  
Blogger James Chang said...

Hi Carol,

Thanks for your observation. I might be reading too much out from their words, but these Friends in question do not form a social stratum in the sociological sense.

Also, my understanding of their endorsement of an identity politics come from my reading of their letter, which is the only objective evidence of where they stand available to me. I deduce my conclusion basing on their word choice. I would indeed be fetishizing if I have already pre-perceived them to be specimen of an ideal type, which I didn't.

Love,
James
P.S. The phrase I used refer to the point of departure of an observer of society's thinking. Do es s/he start from the reality? Or does s/he start with "notions," as Friends would say?

11:16 AM, August 21, 2005  
Anonymous QuaCarol said...

Thanks, James. That's helpful.

I guess next I need help with what "identity politics" actually means in this context.

As I read the letter, the signers have asked for six things:
1) that you invite Vanessa Julye to your meeting
2) at next year's NYYM sessions, that spaces be set off for blacks to do their antiracism work and whites to do theirs, with kids to be included
3) that those seeking further information or those with concerns contact Helen Garay Toppins or Jeff Hitchcock
4) that Black Concerns compile a resource list
5) that Friends of African Descent post the letter on their Web site
6) that Friends of African Descent gathering for a retreat in August pray for those seeking to do antiracism work

In addition the letter gives a view (without asking for action) of incarceration and redistricting in New York State.

What is it you find offensive in that list?

5:04 PM, August 21, 2005  
Blogger James Chang said...

As I said, I probably did over-react to the choice of words of the Friends in question. I would like to refer Carol to the beginning of the letter, and read it together with the part that refer to the high incarceration rate of racial minorities in NYC.

It is through reading the letter this way that I get the sense that these said Friends have chosen the abstract notion of a homogenous "Black People" as their point of departure in their inquiry into the realities of racial inequality in the United States. But I think this is ludicrous. There is no such thing as a Black Peoplehood. A recent immigrant from Nigeria experience something very different from the descendent of an African slave. Note how the signers obsess over the hue of their complexion, claiming that it is the darkness of their skin that tie them together. If this does not constitute FETISHIZATION, I do not know what does.

This will be my last post on this letter to Friends everywhere. I hope this will help Friend Carol and others to understand what exactly is at stake here. No we as Friends must stand as one people. The notion of having a Friends of Color, etc. organization itself is ludicrous enough; a blatant breach of the unity of Christian discipleship and of the Kingdom of God. Have we really gone mad in the direction of political correctness? In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek. Have we forsaken even this part of the Gospel?

6:44 PM, August 21, 2005  
Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

It's good to hear from QuaCarol on this blog, as she is a Friend I have long known and respected.

The discussion between James and others about "identity politics" and neo-Marxism has moved beyond my depth of knowledge. I have not followed the development of these these trends in academia. In general, my experience with academic debate has not been inspiring.

The letter from Black Friends struck me as being very constructive in tone and very respectful of its (mostly white) Quaker audience, while not shrinking from the presentation of real grievances with the state of our nation and also our own religious society today. Even after his explanations I am mystified that the letter "infuriated" our Friend James Chang, but I think it's unlikely that discussing the point any further here would lead to greater understanding. It seems like the kind of discussion in which face-to-face conversations between actual human beings would probably yield more light than a cyber-conversation in the blogosphere. Perhaps James will have an opportunity at some point to meet some of the letter's writers and dialogue with them in person.

On the subject of "color-blindedness" I do have a further comment. There is a good kind of "color-blindedness": the kind that we hope will characterize us on that day when when perceived racial/ethnic/cultural differenes will be less visible to us than our common humanity. There is also a kind of color-blindedness that blinds us to truth and perpetuates racial/ethnic/cultural barriers in the here and now. I am thinking of the "color-blindedness" that prevents us from accurately seeing the racial/ethnic/cultural patterns and divisions that exist all around us and indeed among us. The Meeting I know and love best tends to think of itself as "inclusive", but it is in fact overwhelmingly (not, thank God, completely) composed of white people from a relatively narrow social and economic stratum. Neither my own rural white working class parents when they were alive, nor - I suspect - the great mass of people of color who live in New York City today would have an easy time finding social acceptance at such a Meeting, whether or not they accepted the religious faith it seeks to embody. There is not necessarily an obvious way to "fix" this state of affairs. But surely the first step would have to be to see it, and to do that we'll have to leave our dysfunctional color-blindness behind.

- - Rich Accetta-Evans

9:45 AM, August 22, 2005  
Blogger Leila M. said...

thanks for this post, it's very interesting to see the challenges Quakers still face today while bravely pointing out past and current issues to face. Whenever I see a post like this, I note the stark similarities of another's faith and community with my own.

10:17 AM, August 24, 2005  
Anonymous Bill Samuel said...

It long bothered me that the meetings of which I was familiar (which, from all reports, are not dissimilar in this regard from most unprogrammed meetings) were predominantly from a very narrow socioeconomic spectrum and were overwhelmingly white even when located in areas that were majority nonwhite. When I talked with Friends who themselves were of typical ethnic and socioeconomic character in the meeting about this concern, at some point if I kept at it they would come back saying something like, "They wouldn't appreciate what we have. If we were going to attract them, we would have to change. I don't want us to change."

The last meeting of which I was a member is an area which changed dramatically in its ethnic mix since the meeting established itself at its present location 50 years ago. Most other churches in the area which had been predominantly white seem to have made the ethnic change with the area, or died The meeting is the only church in the area of which I'm aware that remained mostly white over that time.

A newspaper story covered the ethnic change in a couple of other churches in the area. Noteworthy was that they saw the changing character of the neighborhood, made efforts to determine the needs of the new population and changed to meet those needs. The meeting did not.

This is not to say the meeting was particularly bad. My own view is that it is a better than average meeting. Its failings reflect a much wider reality in the Society of Friends.

I appreciated the point made about different kinds of color blindness. I think that is a perceptive and accurate statement.

Liberal unprogrammed Friends think of themselves as very progressive, including about civil rights, and not a few were active in the civil rights movement of the 50's and 60's. But the Society, at least this part of it, is very definitely a racist institution.

10:06 PM, March 25, 2006  

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