Leadership Council Meeting Follow-Up:
Addressing White Privilege and Islamophobia
The Leadership Council is the policy-making body of ACTS, and decides the direction of the ACTS social justice mission. Comprised of representatives from each of ACTS Membership Organizations and Congregations, the Leadership Council features diverse perspectives that make each quarterly meeting dynamic. The most recent meeting, on Tuesday, June 6th, witnessed discussion on the phenomena of White Privilege, the allocation of ACTS funding, local leadership training and recruitment, and finally, ACTS’ collective response against an Islamophobic rally within Syracuse.
“One-on-One’s,” is a technique developed many years ago, and adopted by ACTS, that focuses tough discussions through respectful sharing and listening. The purpose of One-on-Ones is to build community through dialogue. The agenda for the June 6th Leadership Council Meeting featured just
such a One-on-One dialogue. The topic of the dialogue, was White Privilege.
Statistics which suggest inequality for people of color. White Privilege is a bit like an advantage for those who are white. Even as many white people have serious life struggles too, they are treated disproportionately better than people of color in my sectors of society: Law, Education, economics, and Urban Planning (think I-81).
In one instance of many similar conversations around the room, an ACTS leader recalled the benefits his family received after his father’s service in World War II. At the time, he had not realized how fortunate his household was in comparison to households of color at that time. He discovered much later that veterans of color across the country had not been given the same opportunities for education support; low-interest loans, and union membership. Minority soldiers served and sacrificed their lives for our country as much as white soldiers, and yet minority soldiers were seemingly denied the same opportunities because they were different.
More recently, the leader recalled stories told by black colleagues of tense traffic stops by police. In one case, it was remarked that a traffic stop was significantly less eventful than usual because a white man was driving the car.
“Had it been all black individuals in the car, then the officer would have more likely given the people in the car a harder time,” he said.
Whether occurring obscenely post-World War II, or more insidiously nowadays, White Privilege is a tenet of racial inequality.
To educate people about this issue, a proposal for an ACTS-sponsored reading group about White Privilege was approved. Two books, Waking up White, by Debby Irving, and America’s Original Sin, by Jim Wallis, were introduced.
Another pressing matter at the Leadership Council Meeting involved the defense of our Muslim neighbors from attacks by fear-based organizations. ACTS would attend the counter-rally, “Say NO to Islamophobia,” on June 10th, at the Islamic Society of Central New York. Hundreds of people appeared and expressed love to our Muslim brothers and sisters. Among those hundreds were members of ACTS.
Together, these developments of the ACTS Leadership Council represent two concrete steps ACTS is taking to fulfilling its mission of empowering our community on the values of human worth, dignity, and justice and to dismantle structural racism and poverty forever.
ACTS is a diverse group fighting for social justice. We represent people of all faiths and also those who don't follow any faith. Our mission is to end structural poverty and racism for good, and create a "Beloved Community."