Race, Systemic Violence, and Retrospective Justice: An African American Quaker Scholar-Activist Challenges Conventional Narratives

by Harold D. Weaver

Pamphlet, 2020



Call number

CP 465


"Dr. Harold Weaver of the BlackQuaker Project asks Friends to look at societal problems through new lenses: confronting systemic violence with antiviolence; acknowledging institutional and systemic racism, rather than merely individual racism; considering a retrospective justice program that compensates for and helps remove the historical inequities related to the transatlantic slave trade, chattel slavery, and their legacies - Jim Crowism, other forms of dehumanization and exploitation, police brutality, and the school-to-prison pipeline. This unjust world is maintained by misinformation and disinformation in the media, formal education, scholarship, and political discourse. Dr. Weaver lays out steps and queries in this pamphlet to guide Friends and others to begin addressing these concerns in the wider world."--Back cover… (more)

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Weaver conveys a lot in a short space on this crucial topic for Friends, and for that matter for all Americans. In sum, he states a brief but clear outline of the history of racism in America, and explains several essential concepts that describe the nature of our present racism and point directly
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to his proposal of a general plan of action for Friends. In this process, he brings up several matters that should resonate particularly with Friends.
Weaver summarizes very briefly a great deal of history and analysis of racism, which will be better understood by readers who have already learned more of this in detail. However, he brings out a number of points specially and helpfully, including Quaker involvement in the slave trade, slave holding, and resistance to abolitionism, and also a call to the fundamental Quaker testimony of opening to truth and speaking truth (sometimes called Integrity by Friends) in all times of lying and obfuscation.
He also clarifies what institutional racism and structural violence are, with a terrific chart of the types of systemic violence present in the US today, explaining how they are built into our social system and how they are related. He notes that this structural violence affects almost all aspects of life of the vulnerable population. Since it is less than visible to most of those who are not recipients of it, and it provides the roots of direct and personal violence, we must acknowledge and confront this violence in order to rectify the system.
Weaver's plan of action for Friends grows right out of the previous passages, and, while not detailed, presents a strong intelligent set of approaches based on experience of what is needed, restorative justice principles, and long-held Quaker concerns, ways, and practices. He calls us to educate ourselves truthfully, to make a major commitment to retrospective justice for the past injustices (not to say crimes against humanity) and suffering, and to a more robust and active justice testimony among Friends. Retrospective justice involves a formal acknowledgment of the offense and harms, avoiding denial and extenuation, and action to make amends. All these invite active exploration, discussion, and commitment among Friends, which many meetings will want to explicitly encourage and pursue.
Let us be clear; Weaver's pamphlet, gracious as it is, is a challenge to Friends that includes both acknowledging the historical failure of our ancestors and ourselves and committing to action for justice. At the same time, Weaver begins the pamphlet quoting Isaac Penington on "Our life is love and peace, and tenderness, and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying for one another, and helping one another up with a helping hand." And we can so clearly see the deep wisdom of Penington here, how helpful this approach is as we receive the challenge, and as we challenge each other.
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CP 465


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