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Systemic Racism

John van der Meer
On Mediation (January 2020)

Dear Editor: I am a white male who has enjoyed some reasonable advantages, earned by exploiting opportunities that are often denied inappropriately to people of another race or gender, and I have also experienced prejudice myself, based on less obvious classifications. Even so, systemic racism is a real problem, even if not all challenges faced by people of color are based on race.

Ruben Soliz’s “Seek to Truly See” in the September/October issue highlights a number of his experiences as a person of color among Friends, where he has felt overlooked, dismissed, ignored. Most remarkable to me was his feeling of exclusion from Friends’ antiracism discussions when they concentrated on White privilege.

My sense is that some of the manifestations of systemic racism – inferior housing, inferior education, food insecurity, unequal treatment in the courts – affect people of color disproportionately, but not exclusively. If all people who have been inappropriately denied reasonable opportunities would work together to correct injustices, independent of race, it might be easier to “truly see” each other, in spite of our differences.

Soliz laments: “I sometimes feel like White Quakers will never truly understand.” I have heard of a study which showed that police officers, regardless of their own race, are more likely to shoot a Black man than a White man in the same situation. I will never truly know what it is like to grow up targeted by a world where so many manifestations of systemic racism, like that one, are a daily reality. But I can at least acknowledge it, and strive to discern how this might (eventually) be corrected.

– John van der Meer, formerly of Albuquerque Meeting (IMYM)

institutional racism Interrupting Racism Economic Injustice

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