There it was. It was green and gray. It did not belong. The monster was dangerous and I was terrified. “Mommy, there’s a monster in my room.” In she comes, benign and calm. She looks at the monster on my green trunk and quietly folds last night’s carelessly tossed clothes.
Would that all dragons were so easily slain. The current dragon, Intolerance, is the dragon we Quakers have decided to attack. We are benign and calm, and we steadily chip away at its edges.
On a recent Saturday, there was a gathering at Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia, Pa. Three hundred people pre-registered, and then on the day itself, one hundred more signed up. Our large west room has galleries on four sides overlooking the large central meeting room. On January 10 its capacity was tested. There were people of every hue, both Quaker and non-Quaker. I saw a man who was possibly a Mennonite standing in the space and getting the sense of it. We sat quietly in worship as the crowd continued to pour in. Soon the first floor was full, and then we heard the tread of many feet walking to the upper gallery. Our clerk, Jada S. Jackson, said, “Look around you.” I looked back at the multicolored sea of faces. We had come to slay the dragon.
After worshiping together for an hour, we broke into small groups with our quarters. People who weren’t associated with a Friends meeting stayed in the large yearly meeting room. How I would love to have been a fly on the wall. The question we were addressing was this: What are your personal privileges? For many of us, it came as a surprise that our very skin color was a personal privilege. We listed so many more: education, health, owning a car, speaking the King’s English. The list of our privileges grew longer and longer. We benefit from endless privileges that ensure we will be listened to, that we won’t be needlessly stopped on the road, that we will be seen in a positive light. This was only step one.
We returned to the large meeting room and again gathered in silence. One dear Friend led us in “We Shall Overcome.” Was the dragon of racism slain? No. We only got up the courage to look him in the eye. We were in a place of safety. Mother was in the room with us. She picked up the offending monster and said, “Here. Look at it.” We must face-down our monsters. We must look them in the eye.