Listening to People of Color

On this page, we honor the stories from Friends of Color about their experiences of racism and white supremacy in Quaker meetings.

If you have five minutes...
Read this article

Moving Toward Wholeness: Addressing Race Among Friends written by Patricia McBee and Vanessa Julye for Friends Journal. Although written in 2003, many of the descriptions resonate with current Friends of Color.


We are a Multiracial Society

An amazing amount of pain is caused by the simple failure to acknowledge that our society is multiracial and multicultural. Below are a few examples of times when Quaker Friends of color have felt invisible or unwelcome:

  • A board member at Pendle Hill was escorting a prospective lecturer around the campus. As they entered the main building a workshop participant approached them and said, “There’s no toilet paper in the ladies room.” Since both were African American women, were they mistaken for housekeeping staff? That was how it felt.
  • A lifelong Asian American Friend says that she can be “going along just being me and then be brought up short” by comments such as, “You speak excellent English. Where are you from?” “New Jersey,” she responds. “Where are your parents from?” “California.”
  • A lecturer at a Quaker event spoke stirringly about white privilege. She began with, “I, like the Society of Friends, am white,” and went on to discuss how white privilege benefits “us.” Her audience, however, included African American, Asian American, Native American, and possibly other Friends who were not white. Similarly, an African American Friend wrote about “building healthy relationships between Quakers and people of color,” seemingly overlooking Quakers of color.
  • A Latina Friend shared with us that her meeting was hosting a series of workshops on racism. As fliers were being passed out, she noticed there were no references to Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or any other ethnic groups but African American. “I really dislike feeling like the race police. I did point out that this is not just black and white—it is everyone.”

Look around your organization or faith community. You may observe that most members are white and middle class. But look closely for those who do not fit those categories. How do we harm them and ourselves when we refer to Friends as a white, middle‐class group? To the extent that we allow that inadequate self‐concept to persist, how does it limit us as a Religious Society?

The article also includes steps that organizations can take to move toward wholeness.

If you have twenty minutes...

Check out the the Healing Racism Toolkit Project, originally developed at the New England Yearly Meeting. Excerpt:

In our short-attention span culture where honesty seems an extreme sport and listening is in remission, Quakers owe us affiliated listening. Hearing and understanding us is a central component in the approach to partnership worship. Such attentiveness would forge a coherent sense of empathy and sensitivity. Cooperative listening acts as a check on our “shrill” and ravenous abuse allegations Quakers consider overreactive. 

If you have an hour...

Prayerfully read through this collection of stories from the report on the Institutional Assessment on Systemic Racism within Friends General Conference. (stories begin on page 3) These stories may be painful to sit with.

The report written by the Institutional Assessment Task Force members, October 2018, and shared with their permission. To learn more about FGC's Institutional Assessment on Systemic Racism, click here. You may especially want to focus on the recommendations of this task force (p. 30) when thinking about how to dismantle white supremacy in our institutions and organizations.

Questions for Conversation and Journaling

What feelings arise for you as you listen to the stories of these Friends? What do we owe each other?

In the Moving Toward Wholeness article, the authors present several ideas for "Reaching toward Wholeness" in our Meetings. Which of these, or other actions, could your Meeting engage in?