Reflections on Anti-Racism Trainings


Over the past few months, dozens of NYYM Friends have attended anti-racism trainings arranged by the NYYM in support of the discernment of the draft Statement on Becoming an Anti-Racist Faith Community. Trainings were provided by the groups Roots of Justice and Crossroads. The statement and other resources are available at Below are some Friends’ reflections on the trainings they attended.


Mary Pugh Clark
Montclair Meeting

I attended the Roots of Justice training February 18-20, 2022, and found the training most valuable. As someone with little knowledge of the Bible I gained a new perspective thinking about the relevance of Bible stories to anti-racist work. I appreciated how activities were varied to make the long times on Zoom purposeful and engaging. Definitions were clear and definite, which was useful. That they were also nuanced resonated with me. The sincerity of all the trainers impressed me. I am glad for the availability of resources.
The analysis underscores the primacy of racism and White supremacy culture in shaping the history and institutions of the US (with hints of global significance as well). I accept this as an accurate and useful interpretation. People are, however, complicated, and have several, often conflicting, identities. Providing some vehicle for people to untangle their parts and see how racism affects them in particular would, I think, deepen people’s understanding. Doing so might also help people buy into anti-racist work. Perhaps a hand-out could supplement what is presented during the training itself.


Personal narratives often are at the core of people’s identities. I think finding a way to access them and build upon them could be enriching and help people work in the various circles they find themselves in. In our training John brought up his desire to relate his experience among construction workers to the analysis. For me I find I continually have to acknowledge my anger at the patriarchy right along with my various privileges. Confronting those parts and the tension produced by having both is a challenge. Identifying as queer and as someone over 75 further affect how I approach doing anti-racist work. I value knowing when and where people enter into “history.”


As a historian by training I believe it is important to recognize that there are many, and often very opposed, histories. From the great men of history to looking from the bottom up. Or one can note there are histories that focus on a theme or an aspect. The 1619 Project is a wonderful contribution to our understanding. It is a thematic history that challenges the popular success story accounts I was given in the 1950’s. It substantiates its thesis with pertinent details (“facts”) that support the conclusions of the project. As an aside, we would benefit from a comprehensive account of White women working for women’s rights that did not leave out their racism or eugenics.


It has helped me to explore and clarify my thinking by writing these reflections. I am excited about how I am connecting dots. Hopefully I will be able to share insights with my local Quaker meeting and people in my other circles.


Regina Baird Haag 
Old Chatham Meeting

I attended the Roots of Justice sponsored training in February 2022. I can say that it was difficult, painful, and emotionally draining. I can also say that it was tremendously valuable, and that I will  reap positive changes in perspective. I also plan on participating in systemic and individual actions resulting from this training that will influence for good the communities to which I belong.


Regina St. Clare 
Shrewsbury Meeting

I attended the three day Roots of Justice training. 


I have done anti-racism work for decades. Nothing comes close to the training and the care I felt through the three days. 


Dealing with American karma directly at the root is not easy, especially for White people.


Even sincere antiracists. 


Since the training, I have had the opportunity to use my deeper understanding with a comment that made a lot of sense. This comment came from a Black woman who asked me to be her mother. 


What an honor. I have no children. I immediately took on that responsibility as my opportunity to give back, give up, and sometimes throw up. I truly felt sick during much of the training. 


Her comment, which has deepened my understanding, is simply this: when White people use the word "slaves," it is disrespectful to Black people. 


Why? Because Black people are citizens from Africa who were enslaved.


Rather than saying "Washington had many slaves," say "Washington enslaved Africans on his 50,000 acres of crop-giving land. Jefferson enslaved 600 Africans over his lifetime."


Yet both men are considered among our top five presidents for many other reasons.


This perhaps subtle change in English changes my perspective and frees me a bit of unconscious racism.


Anne Liske 
Albany Meeting

Participation in antiracism training reinforced for me the critical need to recognize historical and structural deep roots of racism in the foundation of our nation, inclusive of some Quakers. Being open to learning and using new lenses and tools for personal and community change is uncomfortable. At times it made me question so much of what was missing from the history I’ve been taught growing up with lifelong connections to Friends. At the same time I am grateful to be in partnership with others to do this work.


Judy Meikle 
Wilton Meeting

I have attended two antiracism trainings arranged by NYYM—an analysis training from Crossroads and a follow up on education and organizing from Roots of Justice.  Both trainings have increased my capacity to identify, name and dismantle institutional racism within NYYM and be ever aware of my own role in systems of oppression.  I appreciate that both organizations shared with us common language and definitions and urged us to cooperate as faithful Friends in the spiritual work ahead.”


Stuart Bartram
Genesee Valley Meeting

The convenors of the anti-racism workshop I attended (Roots of Justice, February 18-20, 2022) said several times that if we are not uncomfortable we are not doing the work. They included themselves in discomfort, and so we could work together. I found plenty there that made me uncomfortable. But it seemed clear to me that they were leaving, even trusting, me to find my own discomfort. My own discomfort is where my needed work is.


This is in contrast to a prior workshop I did years ago, in which I felt I was being told why and where to be uncomfortable. This made me angry and resentful. I think that workshop was wrongly led. It prepared me to appreciate this one.


To be uncomfortable is to have work to do. It does not have to mean being in the wrong. Confusion ought to be a temporary condition. Anti-racism work ought not to leave us at a loss. I’m afraid it often has that effect. There are not unsolvable problems to being White; there are challenges and responsibilities that can be dealt with.