Sunday, November 25, 2007

What Privilege Do You Have? Part II

After my 'Privilege' blog post, dozens of you posted your own results of the 'step forward' activity either on your blog, my comments, or over on Liz's site. A few Friends saw fit to 'defend' their steps, and one Friend called the exercise an "'I'm more priveleged and thus more guilty than you are' game."

It wasn't intended as a guilt-game, but I can see how it might have been interpreted that way. And as I've read each response (which is one reason it's taken me so long to post Part II), I have seen such deep compassion and caring that I can't see it as a competition. Like the story of parents who scrimped and saved so that they could own a small home. And the parents who insisted their children be well-read and speak proper English because they had been immigrants. Or the families who wanted more for their children than they had, so took the kids to museums on a regular basis. Or the family who had original art from their grandmother. As I've read each post, people have become their stories, and not their 'score.' I hope you've had a chance to read all the responses. If you haven't, it might be a good daily practice to read one response.

And a good first step to a more open and accepting Religious Society of Friends.

I recently had a phone conversation with Robin M. over at What Canst Thou Say? and she shared some wisdom with me that I will share with you here because I found it true for myself.

She said when she has more than two steps to get something done, it often goes undone for longer than it needs to. I think 'refunds' offered by corporations when you buy expensive electronics play to this very human tendency. I recently bought MS Word for my new computer and Microsoft is offering free software updates in 2008. All I have to do is copy my receipt, cut out the bar code, address and stamp an envelope, and put it in the mail. You can guess whether I've done that yet or not.

Robin also pointed out that dealing with class within the RSoF is similar because it's going to take more than two steps to become more diverse. There isn't one thing (or even two) that we can do to be more open to working class and poor people. It's going to take many steps.

And hearing each other's class story and history is one (which is one step beyond telling our own story, isn't it).

Now that some of us have taken this one step, I have a question for us as a Religious Society.
We can, through the work of the Spirit, live out God’s reign on earth. All Friends seek to live out of the love expressed in the Sermon on the Mount… When understood as wholeness, spiritual maturity, soundness, completion, or even obedience, perfection starts to become more accessible to me. Other Friends who find the terms perfection and holiness difficult are more apt to speak of discipleship, obedience, baptism with the Holy Spirit, or the ‘Lordship of Jesus Christ’. For a few, spiritual formation or inner healing are the most expressive terms for perfection. ‘Teleos’, the Biblical word for perfection, means ‘end goal’ and suggests an orientation more than a fixed state of being.

From A Certain Kind of Perfection, an anthology organized by Margery Post Abbott
I think it's fair to say that all Friends seek to live out the kind of love Jesus spoke about. And it's also fair to say that we're all in process, we're all heading toward that love. And that few, if any, of us have arrived.

I haven't.

So then certainly our understanding of social class is a similar process. But to where are we oriented? A belief in the equality of all human beings? A form of Jesus's love? A political belief in socialism? A belief in an all-inclusive Faith?

And if you did the privilege exercise (on your blog, in my comments, in your own mind), where were you oriented? Where do you want to be oriented? Where *should* we, as a Religious Society, be oriented?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Class and Race in the RSOF

I promise I will still get back to Part II of "What Privilege Do You Have," but I read this New York Times article about race and class and had to share it with you.

Of late I've been wondering about the connection between class and race in the Religious Society of Friends, but since I'm white, I don't feel like I have any authority on the matter.

After reading this New York Times article though, I realized that I have a question to put forth.

If you are black, do you need to also be middle class to be accepted at all in the Religious Society of Friends?

In my storytelling class, a woman told a story about her life in the inner city. She called herself a 'ghetto girl.' She wore big hoop earrings, a tight belly shirt, short skirt, and stilettos. She had an urban accent.

I couldn't help but wonder what Friends would think if she walked into Meeting. How would she feel among Friends? And what would Jesus think about how we treated her and how she felt around us?

(And I posted this before I read Martin's blog here, but if you've read this far, you'll be interested in reading what he has to say about it all).

Friday, November 2, 2007

What Privilege Do You Have?

I saw a blog game on a couple of Quaker blogs (this one and this one), so I thought I'd offer a similar game with a spin on class based. It's based on an exercise developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Indiana State University that I found on this Yahoo group around class on college campuses. The exercise developers hold the copyright but have given me permission to post it here and ask that if you participate in this blog game, you acknowledge their copyright.

If you post this in your blog, please leave a comment on this post.

Father went to college (for a year until he enlisted in the Army Air Corps for WW II)
Father finished college
Mother went to college
Mother finished college
Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
Were read children's books by a parent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs*
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs*
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp
Had a private tutor before you turned 18
Family vacations involved staying at hotels
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them (a 1976 pea-green Plymouth Valiant they bought at a state auction for $500 in 1985)
There was original art in your house when you were a child
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18 (for one year when I had a paper route and could pay the bill)
You and your family lived in a single family house (after I turned 6)
Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home (see above)
You had your own room as a child (only after my parents converted an unheated porch into a bedroom for my brother when we became too old to share a room, and not during the year my grandmother lived with us)
Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
Went on a cruise with your family
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

*These two are edited because Christine pointed out that the previous wording didn't clearly delineate between people who had their tuition paid for them and people who worked for their college expenses.

In the group exercise which was originally designed for college students, staff and faculty, everyone stands in a line and steps forward if any of these things are true for them.

If we were all in a big room, I would have taken 5 steps forward. How about you? How many would you have taken? How many steps will your kids have taken by the time they're 18 (or how many did they take before they turned 18)?

Notice that each of these are things that were given to you or provided for you rather than things you necessarily earned yourself. The exercise instructions note that just because you've taken a lot of steps doesn't mean that you haven't worked hard to get where you are. But perhaps consider the things you've had handed to you that others didn't have.

For instance, if I'd not been given a car, I don't think I would have been able to go to college the first time around because there was no way I could afford to stay on campus (or near campus--I lived with my parents my first year).

To participate in this blog game, copy and paste the above list into your blog, and bold the items that are true for you. If you don't have a blog, feel free to post your responses in the comments. Once enough people participate in this little game, I'll do a Part II post about what all this has to do with Friends. (And you can, in your blog post, ponder what it means to Friends).