Woodbrooke’s anti-racism learning programmes
Tackling racism is a spiritual imperative…We may not be ready, we may not feel that we are ready, but this next step we take in faith and trust that the Spirit will show us what we need to do. We declare our commitment to becoming an actively anti-racist faith community. We are still wrestling with what this means for us.
- Minute 17, Yearly Meeting 2021
In response to this BYM minute, Woodbrooke is intentionally devising learning that will support Quakers on their journey towards becoming an actively anti-racist faith community. Seeking to approach this challenge from different directions, we are offering learning across a range of programme areas: in history & theology, communities, racial and social justice.
As we devise our approach to enabling this learning, we are listening to Black and Brown Friends and learning from other movements and anti-racism courses (e.g. Healing Solidarity and Race2Community). We hope that an explanation of our rationale will help to make our approach clearer.
*We use the terms Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC), recognising that they are socially constructed terms, inadequate for truly expressing the complexity and multiplicity of identities and experiences of racialized people.
Why are some of the courses around race and racial issues only for white peoples? Why are you excluding Black, Indigenous and People of Colour from these courses? Doesn’t this just increase separation and segregation?
Most of the learning opportunities we offer are open to everyone, but we are also deliberately devising a number of courses specifically to support white members of our community to identify and begin to unlearn deeply rooted ideas and attitudes of racial superiority and anti-Blackness that underpin structural racism. Black people, Indigenous people and People of Colour live everyday with the consequences of these ingrained attitudes and systems and do not need to learn about them. Nor do they need to listen to white people in their unlearning process, which can often expose them to further hurt and harm.
Our intention and understanding is that by supporting white people to do this (un)learning separately from Black people, Indigenous people and People of Colour, ultimately we will be better able to truly come together in community. So, this is a temporary separation in service of longer-term connection grounded in commitment to justice and equity.
*We are currently exploring also offering learning events that are specifically only for Black people, Indigenous people and People of Colour.
Why are most of your anti-racism courses led by white tutors? Doesn’t it make more sense for us to learn from Black people, Indigenous people and People of Colour first-hand about this?
Many Black people, Indigenous people and People of Colour have bravely shared their painful lived experiences of racism with white people. What we have heard from BIPOC people we have previously engaged to tutor these types of unlearning spaces for white people, is that doing this can have a deep emotional cost for them. At the moment, therefore, we are taking the approach that this work can and should be mostly led by white tutors, who are themselves in the process of recognising and unlearning their own entrenched racist attitudes. This choice also represents where we see the responsibility for this unlearning work to lie- squarely with white people.
Why are you charging for courses relating to anti-racism? By doing this aren’t you just continuing to make a profit out of structures of inequality?
Woodbrooke subsidises all of the learning we offer from grants and donations. We do need to charge fees in order to cover the costs of providing learning to Friends and to support our research on many areas including in areas of race and colonialism, as well as to continue to be able to pay our Associate Tutors for their valuable work across our programme. We offer bursaries for people who are blocked from attending due to financial challenges (which we recognise are often directly resulting from racial and social injustice) and many of our sessions are ‘Pay-as-Led’, where those participating are able to contribute at a level that they can afford, even if this is nothing.
We are learning together
As a team of staff and associate tutors we are actively engaged in exploring, questioning and improving our approach to supporting Quakers to move towards becoming an actively anti-racist faith community. This is complicated, messy work and we know that sometimes we may make mistakes. We particularly welcome feedback from Black and Brown Friends within the Quaker community, and from Black people, Indigenous people and People of Colour outside the Religious Society of Friends to enable us do this work in the most useful and effective way.