Matters of Race and Witness (3)

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Dear Editor:

This Friend is puzzled by some of the comments in the “Friends of Color Epistle” in the July/August issue. The epistle reads, “We go to meeting to find spiritual nourishment, but have to find extra spaces where we are culturally nourished as well.” This Friend would appreciate clarification of the “cultural nourishment” that Friends of color are seeking. The epistle continues: “Our gathering and worship this weekend [at Quaker Center] made it clear to us that we must strengthen our connection to each other as Friends of color, both for our own spiritual health and the health of the wider Quaker community.” This Friend would appreciate a deeper explanation of these Friends’ desires for strengthened connections. In what ways will stronger connections improve their spiritual health and the health of their meetings and the wider Quaker community?

In a second piece, Friend Zae Illo emphatically calls for a redistribution of power in our Religious Society of Friends. This Friend confesses more puzzlement, as this contention seems inconsistent with the do-it-yourself nature of silent meetings, where power generally comes from signing up to do some of the tasks of actually running the meeting as an organization. Is this traditional Quaker structure and process the “fiefdom of older White people”? While it’s true that the majority of meeting attenders are older, white, and also female, it’s unclear to this Friend that they are power-hungry or intent on monopoly.

Friend Illo opines that “Quaker” is a “Black word,” presumably because it was “originally used as a jeer to signal failure and express hostility.” Apparently this was back when “Quakers were a problem.” Does Friend Illo want Quakers to be a problem again? Given the sedate nature of most meetings in this Friend’s not-so-wide experience, this is not an unreasonable desire. But what kind of problem might Quakers be in unity about becoming? Are “Friends trapped in the golden cage of social respectability”? If so, Friend Illo might advise them to “wear it as long as thou canst.”

However, there are indeed rumors of floods approaching. “Quiet, respectable comfort” is likely to be upended. Anticipating this, we all should be working with authentic cooperation to construct arks that may be called eco-villages and transition towns, because the rising waters care not for our ancestry, nor our wallets.

– Muriel Strand, Sacramento Friends Meeting (PYM)

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