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All Our Histories

Susan Cozzens
On Normality (July 2022)

To the editor: Mackenzie Barton-Rowledge begins her article in the May/June 2022 issue of Western Friend with her grandfather, modeling the integrity she is seeking from Quakers in North Pacific Yearly Meeting (NPYM). She calls attention to one set of family histories in NPYM, which she calls a “settler-majority” community. I am writing to remind us that there are other family histories in NPYM, too.

On my parents’ side of my family, stories of European-descent farmers appear. But on my husband’s side, our history of enslavement does not fit the “we stole this land” narrative. We were ourselves stolen from Africa, and our labor was stolen for hundreds of years to build the economic wealth that is so unequally distributed now in the United States.

If my ancestors had included Japanese immigrants, our first generation would have been legally forbidden to own land. In the second generation or later, if we lived on the West Coast in 1942, we would have been driven from what we “owned” to concentration camps, finding fields ruined and houses burned out when we returned. If my ancestors had been Mexican, after decades of indentured labor, we would have been “sent back” to Mexico in the Repatriation of the 1930s, leaving behind what we “owned.” Not owning even our own lives, any of these ancestors might have been lynched in the Northwest, with our Native American ancestors most likely of all.

To live towards justice with integrity, as Mackenzie urges, we need to bring all of us and our histories into our “we.”

– Susan Cozzens, Eastside Meeting, Seattle, WA (NPYM)

diversity family history Racial Justice

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