Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Classism Class

I was a weekend FAP(Friendly Adult Presence) at the Southern Appalachian Young Friends (SAYF) retreat this weekend here in Nashville. A nice time was had by all, if not a lot of sleep. SAYFers came from Beria, Chapel Hill, Atlanta, and Knoxville. The Chapel Hill folks drove 11 hours to get here and the Atlanta folks got stuck in traffic and sat on the interstate for over two hours on their way, so people arrived quite late. It took a long time before the young people were sufficiently calm enough to be quiet and I wasn't able to fall asleep until 3:30 or so (to the sounds of someone playing the piano and a couple of people drumming along on the floor).

Dick had all the "night shepherds" lined up but one had to cancel due to a death in her family. Hammy would have taken her place but Zed and Carmac got sick. Dick would have done it but I insisted that I would (Dick's just getting over the flu. He's a stubborn man). Kit was the other night shepherd for that time slot (12-3:30). The kids didn't settle down until after 1:00 so we didn't have too much checking to do and, as this is a really fantastic group of young people, no problems.

Kit and I were able to sit and talk about our spiritual formation groups and other things. We talked a lot about classism and lack of diversity in our meeting. I told her that I feel really called to bring more Light to this in NFM. She agrees and is open to exploring. We were talking about when we could do it and both bemoaned the fact that we only have adult ed twice a month and it's usually very hodge-podge in it subject matter and often scheduled months in advance. Currently, meeting for worship is 10:30-11:30 with adult ed or other activity after. I suggested that we could have an on-going discussion group/class/worship sharing on the subject of classism/racism/diversity for an hour before meeting for worship. She suggested that maybe this would be good to try during the summer months. I think there are at least one or two others in GIL who will be interested in pursuing this topic in greater depth. We have our GIL large group meeting this evening so I shall introduce the idea and see how it flies.

Here are some ideas I have for this class:
-a worship-sharing about our earliest memories of class or economic differences.
-in class, each person writes a 1-2 page biography about his or her class/socio-economic history. The next week, we hand the biographies out at random and read them aloud and share reactions, observations and comments.
-Talk about our individual experiences of feeling like an outsider in NFM: When, why and how? When do we feel included? What were first impressions? What was/is welcoming?
-Book discussion "White Like Me" by Tim Wise.
-"What are you hiding" worship sharing about things we are/think/do that we feel would not "sit well" with NFM and thus, keep hidden.
-"What Privileges" exercise from Jeanne's blog.

I led an adult ed about this topic a month or so ago. It went OK. I didn't feel too great about it because I don't think I was focused enough to make it a good discussion. I had so many ideas I wanted to hit and activities I wanted to lead that I was really scattered. We wound up talking mostly about how welcoming our meeting is to newcomers and how we might be perceived to others who know nothing about us. This topic is too big for just one hour one time. I feel this should be an on-going discussion to help us become and remain aware of who we are and who we want to be as a community.

7 comments:

Robin M. said...

It's been a month or so since I was caught up on your blog. What a month. I do hope that the coming month will have less sickness and less rain and more Light. Faithfulness has its big and its little costs and sometimes the little ones still add up.

This class sounds very interesting and I hope that you are able to move forward with it at your meeting.

I will also try not to let so much time go by between reading. Thank you for writing.

Allison said...

Yay, I'm glad so many people are talking about creating a diverse Quaker world!

Anonymous said...

It might be interesting to look around your meeting to see what kind of diversity is displayed in style of clothing. Then, just for fun, see what happens if you show up for Meeting barefoot.
Class distinction in clothing is loosening to a large extent, but is it still operative? How are differences outside "certain boundaries" handled?

In His Love,
Nate Swift

Friendly Mama said...

Thank you both for your words of encouragement! This large, invisible community is a blessing, giving me support, provoking me to examine my ideas and assumptions and challenging me to expand myself. I am grateful I found you all!
Mary Linda

Friendly Mama said...

Nate,
I've run around meeting barefoot on more than one occasion: No raised eyebrows there. I'd more likely get a reaction if I showed up in high heels and pantyhose.

I'm trying to think of a situation in which an individual did behave "differently". I think ours is actually a pretty accepting community. I think maybe we'd sorta ignore behavior or dress that was not "normal" in a polite, don't-draw-attention-to-it kind of way. I think this is what would make an exercise on "what are you hiding" interesting.

Thanks for your ideas!
Mary Linda

Tania said...

Depending on how in-depth you want to go, there's a book called "Lifting the White Veil" that is more detailed, just as honest, and less argumentative than "White Like Me".

Friendly Mama said...

Tania,
I've never seen "Lifting the White Veil" but I'll look for it. I like the way Tim Wise writes, his directness, but I'm sure that some people might find his style confrontational (which I don't always think is a bad thing). Thanks for the suggestion!
Mary Linda