[saymaListserv] Results of Atlanta Survey on "How Safe and Welcome You Feel

Bert Skellie bertskellie at mindspring.com
Tue Aug 15 11:42:32 JEST 2006


Analysis of Comments and Suggestions on "How Safe & Welcome You Feel"

In the Atlanta Friends Meeting (5/21/06)

 

During February and early March of 2006, Our Role as Individuals in America's Racial History (ORAIIARH) conducted a survey of members and attenders of Atlanta Friends Meeting. On the survey form, we reminded readers that the Meeting approved in 3/2000 a minute on "Making a Welcome Spiritual Home for All."  Among other questions, we asked, "Please share any comments or suggestions on how we can help make Atlanta Friends Meeting a safer and more welcoming spiritual home for you.  (Or how it has been or is.)"

 

In our initial report (3/19/06, copy attached), we analyzed the numerical ratings.  While most respondents strongly agreed that the Meeting is safe and welcoming for them, we found less agreement among people of color and among adults under 30.  At today's Meeting for Business we present an analysis of comments made on the survey. In the summary and conclusions, we emphasize comments by people of color, by people under 30 and by people who disagreed that the Meeting is safe and welcoming. Out of 133 respondents to the survey, 73 (55%) wrote comments or made suggestions. For this report we grouped comments or suggestions into nine topics, including "Race, racism, ethnicity or culture," "Welcoming," "Meeting for Worship," and others. (For a detailed list of examples of all comments and suggestions by topic see the appendix at the end of this report.)

 

Summary and Conclusions from Analysis of Comments
 

Eleven out of the 13 people of color who responded had a total of 23 comments.  Comments by people of color were more likely to be about race, racism, ethnicity or culture or about children and youth and their families, and less likely to be about Meeting for worship. Comments about race ranged from  "It's hard feeling that I can't talk about the impact of racism on my life," to "I'm not always comfortable with overtly preemptively addressing racism" and "Have a forum for people of color, say quarterly." Comments about children included "We need better inclusion of families with young children" and "I have concerns about a First day teacher." We suggest that Religious Education consider what changes may need to be made to better include families of color. 

 

Four of the seven respondents under age 30 each made a comment.  These included: "Find ways to welcome people without focus on our differences; perhaps through a welcoming committee" and "Create more opportunities to socialize, especially intergenerational." Perhaps Care & Counsel can use these suggestions.

 

Eight of 11 people who feel unsafe or unwelcome had a total of 10 comments. They had more comments about race, racism, ethnicity or culture than others did, and fewer about welcoming. Comments included: "I don't feel safe emotionally due to feeling defensive for being white." "I should be able to connect my own experiences of sexism to racism."

"I was deeply hurt by shabby treatment, including being shunned without the meeting's approval by some weighty Friends."  "You could try actually welcoming people, especially those who keep returning and trying to make friends and be part of a group. I felt like I kept trying and remained a stranger."  These comments are challenging and require reflection.  We hope the Meeting will use them for improvement.

 

For more details please see the full report (attached below, as p. 2-7, 5/21/06).

 

Comments and Suggestions by Race / Ethnicity
 

Eleven out of 13 people of color submitted comments (85%), compared to only 50% of the remaining respondents. The 11 people of color made 23 of the 103 total comments. The table below shows comments by topic for people of color compared to others.

 

Percent by Topic of Comment by Race/Ethnicity*

 

      Topic
     Comments by
     Comments by
     Percent
     Total 
     
       
     People of color
     Others
     of Total
     Number
     
       
      
      
      
     of Comments
     
      Race, racism, ethnicity or culture
     39%
     26%
     29%
     30
     
      Welcoming
     26%
     28%
     27%
     28
     
      Meeting for worship
     4%
     11%
     10%
     10
     
      Children and youth and their families
     26%
     3%
     8%
     8
     
      Group conditions
     0%
     10%
     8%
     8
     
      Group size
     0%
     10%
     8%
     8
     
      Study - forums
     4%
     3%
     3%
     3
     
      Care
     0%
     3%
     2%
     2
     
      Other
     0%
     8%
     6%
     6
     
      Total Percent
     100%
     100%
     100%
      
     
      Total Number of Comments
     23
     80
      
     103
     
       
      
      
      
     # of People
     
      Number of People with Comments
     11
     62
      
     73
     
      Total Number of Survey Respondents
     13
     120
      
     133
     

 

____________________ 

*(Note: On race / ethnicity, 71% of all respondents described themselves as "w/White," "c/Caucasian," "WASP," or referred to their European ancestry.  Another 17% left the space blank.  Three (2%) said "human" race.  The remaining 13 respondents (10%) used a number of descriptors, reflecting both the uniqueness of the individual's ancestry and cultural heritage, and the individual's choice of terms for describing that uniqueness.  Most of the 13 referred to their African ancestry. Three of the 13 referred to some Native American ancestry; only one to Asian ancestry. 

 

Comments from people of color were somewhat more likely to be about race, racism, ethnicity or culture (39% VS 26%) and a lot more likely to be about children, youth and their families (26% VS 3%).  Here are summaries of comments of people of color on those two topics:

 

I feel some people may interact with me only out of obligation/guilt.

It's hard feeling that I can't talk about the impact of racism on my life.

Sometimes the lack of presence of people with like complexion is a bit disheartening.

The Meeting is more welcoming because whites are working on their racism.

I'm not always comfortable with overtly preemptively addressing racism.

Reach out to Friends of color who attend infrequently.

Develop / use tools that help attenders realize the impact of racism for people of color.

Have a forum for people of color, say quarterly.

Whites must identify assumptions of privilege & understand & make changes.

 

We need better inclusion of families with young children.

I have concerns about a First day teacher.

I am uncertain of First day school plan or program. 

I want family singing before meeting. 

 

Comments and Suggestions by Younger Age Group
 

Out of seven respondents who were under age 30, only four offered comments.  Two of the younger respondents made comments related to race or ethnicity. The other two comments were about welcoming and about group size.  Here are the four comments:

 

I feel some people may interact with me only out of obligation/guilt.

Find ways to welcome people without focus on our differences; perhaps through a welcoming committee.

I feel safe & / or welcome.

Create more opportunities to socialize, especially intergenerational.

 

Comments and Suggestions by Those Who Feel Unsafe or Unwelcome
 

A large majority (73%) strongly agreed that the Meeting is safe and welcoming for them, which we defined as a response of "6" or "7."  Only eight percent (11 people) disagreed with the statement, which we defined as a response of "1," "2," or "3."  Eight of these 11 people who feel unsafe or unwelcome in the Meeting submitted comments (73%), compared to only 53% of the remaining respondents. These eight people made 10 of the 103 total comments. The table below shows comments by topic for people who feel unsafe or unwelcome compared to others.

 

Percent by Topic of Comment by Those Who Feel Unsafe or Unwelcome

 

      Topic
     Comments by Those
     Comments by
     Percent
     Total 
     
       
     Unsafe / Unwelcome
     Others
     of Total
     Number
     
       
      
      
      
     of Comments
     
      Race, racism, ethnicity or culture
     60%
     26%
     29%
     30
     
      Welcoming
     10%
     29%
     27%
     28
     
      Meeting for worship
     0%
     11%
     10%
     10
     
      Children and youth and their families
     10%
     8%
     8%
     8
     
      Group conditions
     10%
     8%
     8%
     8
     
      Group size
     0%
     9%
     8%
     8
     
      Study - forums
     0%
     3%
     3%
     3
     
      Care
     0%
     2%
     2%
     2
     
      Other
     10%
     5%
     6%
     6
     
      Total Percent
     100%
     100%
     100%
      
     
      Total Number of Comments
     10
     93
      
     103
     
       
      
      
      
     # of People
     
      Number of People with Comments
     8
     65
      
     73
     
      Total Number of Survey Respondents
     11
     122
      
     133
     
       
      
      
      
      
     
      Percentage with comments
     73%
     53%
      
      
     

 

Comments from people who feel unsafe or unwelcome were much more likely to be about race, racism, ethnicity or culture (60% VS 26%) and less likely to be about welcoming (10% VS 29%).  Here are summaries of comments of people who feel unsafe or unwelcome:

 

I don't feel safe emotionally due to feeling defensive for being white.

I should be able to connect my own experiences of sexism to racism.

I was deeply hurt by shabby treatment, including being shunned without the meeting's approval by some weighty Friends.    I was told I would be "run out of meeting" because I was "dangerous to the meeting".  I think it was because I from a different culture (not Northern European - British - Christian) and am more emotional than most Quakers.  

I appreciate CURAFM work.

Become a more diverse congregation.

I have concerns about a First day teacher.

Unwelcome feeling is not related to race.

It's hard to be a newcomer!

"You could try actually welcoming people, especially those who keep returning and trying to make friends and be part of a group. I felt like I kept trying and remained a stranger."

 

Reported by Bert Skellie for ORAIIARH, 5/21/2006

 

 

Appendix 
 

Examples of all comments and suggestions by topic (" "if exact quote):

 

Race, racism, ethnicity or culture
 

I feel some people may interact with me only out of obligation/guilt.

It's hard feeling that I can't talk about the impact of racism on my life.

Sometimes the lack of presence of people with like complexion is a bit disheartening.

The Meeting is more welcoming because whites are working on their racism.

I'm not always comfortable with overtly preemptively addressing racism.

I don't always feel I can speak my mind.

"At times meeting is very 'politically correct' leading to somewhat of a PC attitude in meeting."

I don't feel safe emotionally due to feeling defensive for being white.

I should be able to connect my own experiences of sexism to racism.

I have personally benefited from AFM educational efforts around race & privilege.

I appreciate CURAFM work.

I'm bothered by messages showing white privilege.

People different from the background of most at Meeting may not feel accepted or may feel pressure to blend in.

I was deeply hurt by shabby treatment, including being shunned without the meeting's approval by some weighty Friends.    I was told I would be "run out of meeting" because I was "dangerous to the meeting".  I think it was because I from a different culture (not Northern European - British - Christian) and am more emotional than most Quakers.  

Reach out to Friends of color who attend infrequently.

Develop / use tools that help attenders realize the impact of racism for people of color.

Have a forum for people of color, say quarterly.

Have something like Friends of African Descent for AFM. 

Whites must identify assumptions of privilege & understand & make changes.

Continue ORAIIARH & focus on relationships.

Become a more diverse congregation.

End judgment of others based on their beliefs even if not ORAIIAH-preferred.

Find ways to welcome people without focus on our differences; perhaps through a welcoming committee.

Have intro seminar on racism but beyond liberal comfort zone (more to real world).

"I would like to see more emphasis on common Quaker values in the sense of beliefs in equality, peace, integrity, simplicity, and community rather than in the sense of 'Quakerly' being too culture bound"

Nominate as clerks of significant committees "those who don't have my same ethnicity and physiognomy." 

"AFM can best combat racism by increasing its efforts to achieve social, economic & judicial equality for all in our community."

 

Welcoming
 

Some people make a good effort.

Friends tend to reach out without being pushy.

I feel safe & / or welcome. 

Seek out people we don't know during casual time together.

Recognize the importance of chatting with others.

Remind old-timers to seek out newcomers at rise of meeting.

Ask people to join committees.

Join a committee.

Join the Meeting.

Become involved in the activities of the Meeting.

Find ways to reach out to newcomers.

Keep trying.

Old-timers need to mobilize themselves to approach newcomers.

"You could try actually welcoming people, especially those who keep returning and trying to make friends and be part of a group. I felt like I kept trying and remained a stranger."

"Support for my leadings. Encouragement and prayers during my illness & personal, practical help."

"The openness to all concerns, the reaching out not only by 'committee people' but encouraged by everyone."

 

Meeting for worship 
 

I don't like political commentary during meeting.

I need more than silent worship (so I attend Unitarian Church more than Friends Meeting).

Gently suggest that more than two messages per person per meeting are excessive.

Help all to understand the meaning of Meeting for worship.

Teach people not to comment on other messages.

I wish people would come on time.

Sometimes I get frustrated with people coming in late...interferes with centering.

Drop the "Holding in the Light" period.

 

Children and youth and their families 
 

We need better inclusion of families with young children.

I have concerns about a First day teacher.

I am uncertain of First day school plan or program. 

I want family singing before meeting. 

The vital program for Jr. & Sr. High youth is most important for me right now.

 

Group conditions 

 

There is tension between Christ-centered & other Friends.

It's hard to be a newcomer!

AFM has offered opportunities for old-timers & newcomers to get together.

I have experienced so much kindness, support & inclusiveness.

When I suffered from depression, and felt unwanted, I found a home here.

Liberal theology & politics make me feel safe.

 

Group size
 

Taking part in small group(s) helps people be accepted.

A small group would be easier to relate to.

Create more opportunities to socialize, especially intergenerational.

Have "Friendly 8's."

 

Study - forums
 

Provide more forums or discussions using various forms of media.

Choose broader themes for adult study - beyond Quaker.

Have a creed statement at the end of meeting before announcements.

 

Care
 

Do care & concern based on zip code.

Have a way of keeping up with folks who haven't attended lately to see if they are okay.

 

Other

 

Unwelcome feeling is not related to race.

I felt unwelcome when I attended in my 20s & 30s.

I don't come often.

I am a second-time visitor.

I'm not sure why the emphasis on "safe."

Make sure all participants in Sunday potluck bring something.

 

 

Report on "How Safe & Welcome You Feel"

In the Atlanta Friends Meeting (originally reported 3/19/06)

 

During February and early March of 2006, Our Role as Individuals in America's Racial History (ORAIIARH) conducted a survey of members and attenders of Atlanta Friends Meeting. On the survey form, we reminded readers that the Meeting approved in 3/2000 a minute on "Making a Welcome Spiritual Home for All."  In part, this minute stated, "The Atlanta Friends Meeting intends to become a safer and more welcoming spiritual home for all."   We asked, "Please help assess the climate now by rating the following statement: The Atlanta Friends Meeting is a safe and welcoming spiritual home for me," with a scoring range from "strongly disagree" (1) to "strongly agree" (7).  We also asked, "Please identify your race and/or ethnicity, using your own words," and we asked for gender (male or female) and age group (18-29, 30-45, 46-64, 65+).  Finally, we asked "Please share any comments or suggestions on how we can help make Atlanta Friends Meeting a safer and more welcoming spiritual home for you.  (Or how it has been or is.)"

 

At today's Meeting for Business, we report on the numerical ratings.

 

By 3/15/06 we had received 133 responses to our survey out of an estimated 301 active local individuals 18 and older in our recently updated directory (44% of 301). The 133 survey respondents appear to be representative of the Meeting on race / ethnicity, gender and age.  

 

A large majority (73%) strongly agreed that the Meeting is safe and welcoming for them, which we defined as a response of "6" or "7."  Only eight percent disagreed with the statement, which we defined as a response of "1," "2," or "3."  There were no differences between males and females, but we found some differences by race/ethnicity and by age. Eight of the 13 respondents of color * (62%) strongly agreed that the Meeting is safe and welcoming for them, down from 73% overall. Among the seven respondents of color who described themselves as "African American," only two strongly agreed (29%), but none of them disagreed that the Meeting is safe and welcoming for them. The age group that was distinguished from the overall group was 18-29 year-olds.  Only three of the seven people in that group (43%) circled a "6" or a "7." None of them, however, disagreed that the Meeting is safe and welcoming for them.

 

Eleven out of 13 people of color submitted comments (85%), compared to only 50% of the remaining respondents. The comments are important and we are still studying them.  ORAIIARH seeks dialogue with the Meeting to discern where the scoring results and the comments are leading us. (Reported by Bert Skellie for ORAIIARH, 3/19/2006 (revised 9 PM to answer question raised during Monthly Meeting about whether 18-29 year-olds disagreed with question.) See above for note on race/ethnicity originally included in the 3/19/06 report. )
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