Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends

White on White: Color-Brave Conversations*

Workshop Number: 
Polly Attwood, Fran Brokaw
Who may register?: 
Open to All
Experiential Activities: 
only full time attenders (participants should attend all week)

A highly-interactive beginning/intermediate level workshop for people of European American descent interested in understanding the forces of racism in our lives. We will explore the impact of racism through presentations, films and discussion, and consider our own racial justice response, and our part in co-creating the beloved community.

Workshop Description

“The two most effective beliefs that prevent us (whites) from seeing racism as a system are:

1) that racists are bad people, and 2) that racism is conscious dislike…” -Dr. Robin Diangelo

Through worship, worship sharing, interactive egagement, presentations, film and small group discussions, participants will be immersed in 1) a self-exploration, and 2) a broad systems analysis, through a racial justice lens. This beginning/intermediate level workshop intends to create a space where European American participants can join the workshop leaders in co-creating a safe, mutually-engaging learning and growth environment.

We will begin the week getting to know one another, our commonalities and our differences, and by exploring our own relationship to heritage, race, privilege and oppression. Over the week we will move from the personal, to exploring the institutional structures of racism, to considering right action. We will work to identify how the intersections of oppression and privilege rooted in the past can control and shape our society today, creating ongoing inequities that impact us all. By the end of the week we will consider how each of us may be called individually, or collectively, to racial justice work both within FGC and our Quaker Meetings, and in our wider communities.  

Each day will begin with worship and then move into a topic of exploration. We will close each day with worship or worship sharing, Each day will begin with worship and then move into a topic of exploration. We will close each day with worship or worship sharing, and may draw on additional Quaker-related practices (e.g., reflecting on queries, deep listening) in the midst of the workshop also.  Topics will in part be generated by the participants and may include: personal memories and stories about our own cultural identities and awareness of race, the myth of meritocracy, the power and privilege of white silence & white fragility, having “color brave” vs. color blind conversations; developing an anti-racist stance or, as Robin DiAngelo invites, “becoming less white"; decentering whiteness; white followership and the idea of “ally-ship”; circles of inclusion and co-creation: white space vs. multi-cultural space; organization and workplace analysis and shifting our institutions toward a racial justice model; supporting our own continued learning and growth through resource sharing, support committees, and building community.

Leader Experience

Polly Attwood is a longtime and active member of Friends for Racial Justice at Friends Meeting Cambridge(FMC), MA. She has both participated in and co-facilitated workshops on racism/racial justice at FMC, New England Yearly Meeting, FGC Gatherings, and gatherings of Friends for LGBTQ Concerns, often with her spouse Wendy Sanford. Polly was a participant in the Summer 2016 “White on White” workshop and served as an elder/support presence to workshop facilitators and participants in 2017, and in summer 2018 co-facilitated this workshop.  Niyonu Spann’s, Beyond Diversity 101 workshops (including the Training for Trainers) has been foundational to Polly’s deepening into her learning and teaching for racial justice as Spirit-led “heartwork” through which individuals and communities face deeper truths about systems of oppression while also finding their place in work for racial justice. Polly first came to racial justice/whiteness work in the 1980s as a high school social studies teacher. Currently, she teaches in the teacher education program in Northeastern University’s Graduate School of Education. Her courses with prospective K-12 teachers (both undergraduates and graduates) include: the history of education, socio-political context of education/urban education, issues of inclusion, equity and diversity, critical pedagogy, and teaching secondary social studies/history. Yoga and meditation along with her Quaker practice sustain Polly in her commitment to racial justice.

Fran Brokaw is a member of Hanover (NH) Friends Meeting, and New England Yearly Meeting. After working as a physician in primary care and palliative care for over 25 years, she retired in 2014, and now focuses much of her energy on inner and outer work to disrupt racism and white supremacy. She has been a participant as well as facilitator in racial justice workshops  in Quaker and non-Quaker settings, including "Beyond Diversity 101," with Niyonu Spann & Lisa Graustein, and "Say the Wrong Thing," with Amanda Kemp. She is active in Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) in her community, and enjoys leading "Courageous Conversation About Race." She is co-clerk of the Challenging White Supremacy Working Group of NEYM, serves on NEYM Ministry & Counsel Committee, and has served in many roles in her home meeting. Fran has two adult offspring, a daughter who lives with her husband in Birmingham, Alabama, and a son who lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Fran Lives in Hanover with her two cats, Soleil and Honeybear.