I can only speak from the viewpoint of some one brought up in the UK when it comes to racism in the WTS.
I personally think that racism is rife in the WTS, but perhaps not in the most blatant forms that it takes in the ‘world’. I do know of a sister who came here in the 1950’s and the Witnesses in her cong. wouldn’t sit with her or work with her in the service, so obviously things have got better than that – on the surface.
But saying that, about 5-6 years ago, one of the elders in my cong. was so angry that his son had got engaged to a black sister – he decided he didn’t want to serve as an elder anymore. Funnily enough, before he stood down, there hadn’t been one black MS or elder appointed in the cong. When he stepped down, a few were made up – I wonder who was holding them back? That experience made stop taking the idea of ‘racial harmony’ for granted.
My brother (who never got baptised and left quite a few years ago) was never given any ‘privileges’ – even doing the mikes – and yet he was a lot more intelligent than some of the elders’ sons who were given every ‘privilege’ going. In fact, around the time my brother left, ALL of the other black brothers of his age in our cong. gave up with the ‘truth’, but most of the (white) elder’s sons have stayed in.
Being a Witness means you have to conform to a particular way of life (i.e. white, middle class) and anyone wanting to be in good standing in the congregation is expected to shift away from their own culture (the way they talk, dress, the music they listen to) and fit in with the WTS. I personally think there’s an underlying impression that anything ‘black’ is to be looked down on. Images in the WT & Awake usually associate any ‘ethnic’ entertainment or dress in a negative way. In fact for a long time, there was no other sort of representation of black people in the publications.
To my mind, the black brothers have taken this negativity to heart more than the sisters have. This manifests itself in their choice of partners. The majority of black brothers – especially the ones who have moved up the ‘chain’ usually look down on black sisters and choose white sisters to get married to. It’s their choice and I have nothing against it – it’s a good thing, but the fact is, black sisters are definitely the bottom of the pile in the ‘truth’. It’s obviously an issue for me, as a black ‘sister’.
Black brothers are now able to take on more responsibility in the cong. so even if to the outside world, they’re an office junior, or cleaner or window cleaner – in the ‘truth’ they’re looked up to. A black Witness sister doesn’t have that.
When I first came to this board I took issue with a poster – JT – for his comments about “those big black sisters – don’t look good, but do a lot of service”, because that is EXACTLY the sort of negative attitude that black sisters have to put up with – particularly from black brothers and I definitely resent it. In London, single black sisters make up the majority of the pioneers – but a lot of them are depressed.
It took so long for the WTS to even have a black member of the Governing Body – and de-segregate congs. in the South and South Africa. One of my friends had a bad experience when she visited a cong. in Australia.
Everything is done to prove a point to ‘worldly’ people, but I think some are just paying lip service to the idea of racial harmony.