What happens when the light shines on Quaker darkness?

White British Quakers considering their part in racism

Friends’ House Bookshop / gjarchive

It started at 8 30 am with Meeting for Worship led by a Polish Friend. I found myself amazed how this Quaker way has found its way into so many countries. In Poland, there are perhaps less than 100 Friends yet that does not diminish for me the amazement that the discovery of a 17th century English man transcends culture.

It followed two hours later with an attempt to connect those Friends in the Large Meeting room with many Friends on zoom. It was my experience that you can only stretch technology so far before you lose your Meeting experience.

In the afternoon session about finances, a co-clerk raised the issue of being questioned about her ability. She asked the question, “Is it because of how I look?” She went on to say how she makes an effort to fit in by softening her Californian accent.

This prompted another friend to share her experience of racism. She told how she heard someone shout the N-word. After hearing it for the third time she asked the person, “Are you speaking to me?” The man then spat on her. Infuriated she slapped him.

She knew this was against the Quaker way but she was being honest about her reaction. I believe it is right that we hear the real experience yes even of Quakers to realise that we are as human as everyone. The Society is coming to terms with the reality, that Quakers we may be but that does not exempt us from being racist or experiencing racism.

Later we learned of Lancaster Quakers' involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The questions that followed asked, “What should British Quakers do about this history?”

Listening both in session and an after session discussion I kept thinking did it really take this for Quakers to realise that they can be racist? In terms of making reparation, I don’t think we need inquiries that will take time. Those Quakers who are white don’t need more information on the role Quakers played if they accept that as white people they benefitted and continue to benefit from a world that scales people based on their skin colour.

Quakers may well wish to look to Stormzy for inspiration on how to share their wealth.




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