Quaker School

I will not show you the picture of the killer. This is the man he killed, though.

A little while ago there was a news story where a white military veteran traveled to New York City specifically to kill a black person. He succeeded and killed an innocent man who lived a life of charity and nonviolence. Even if the man he murdered had been a horrible person, it still would not have been right. The police said that the killer was racist since he was a little boy. To my horror, it was brought to my attention that this crazy man was from Baltimore, my hometown. Further, not only was he from Baltimore but he was also a student at the school I went to for twelve years. Friends School of Baltimore is a private school just inside the city lines, situated near a lot of other private schools. The killer went to Friends six years behind me so I never knew him and he is also younger than my brothers who also briefly went to Friends.

I spent twelve years here and it had such an impact on my life.

The news that this man went to the same school as me is baffling. You see, Friends School is very well-known in this area for being a good school with good values. While Bill Clinton was president, he and Hillary Clinton sent their daughter Chelsea to a Friends School nearer Washington DC which was very similar. Friends is a Quaker school which is nothing to sneeze at because Quaker is more than a religion in my eyes. Like Buddhism, Quakerism is a way of looking at and dealing with the world and the inner self. Quakers are by and large non-violent, anti-war, and seek simplicity in all things. We worked to be humble but also to use your gifts to leave the world a little better than you found it.


Our school song.

More than that, we learned how to identify with other people. I may have lived through a slightly sheltered childhood but I learned how to listen to all sides and all groups in a situation. I was also exposed to diversity. I met people from all sorts of backgrounds. There were families from so many varied ethnicities and fellow students of a whole rainbow of skin colors. We were taught about the civil rights movement, we talked about the LA riots, and we learned about the Holocaust too. In every lesson we had, if racism was present then it was a villain in the story. Our teachers made it absolutely clear that our human journey should not only be filled with tolerance but acceptance and love as well. We were not taught to be wide-eyed, naive students but we were told to do our best to love other people.

Imagine this, filled with people and stare at it in silence. Speak if the spirit moves you.

Peace was a prized experience that Friends gave me.  Once a week we walked up as a class to what was called Meeting.  Quakers do not have an experience similar to other religious organizations.  The room is full of benches in rows but not all of them were facing the same way.  There was no central focus to the room because there were no sermons or bible lessons.  For the most part, we sat in silence.  When the spirit moved you, you could stand up and talk about something you were thinking about.  Being little kids and then awkward teenagers, very few of us ever stood up to say anything but it was nice having a peaceful half hour to just sit and think.  It made me value peace even in the midst of a chaotic day.


Embedded into the wall of one of the Baltimore meeting houses.

So, wherever this killer got this racism and hate from, he did not get it from the school I went to.  If anything, the school has gotten more even more progressive in the years since I went there.  If this man claims to have had such virulently racist thoughts since he was a kid, I wonder how he felt going to Friends where he was told repeatedly that he was on the wrong side of history.  He was in the Army, and I wonder what effect that had on his psyche.  There are so many factors that it is difficult to parse out why he did what he did.  All I know is that Friends has nothing to apologize for.

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6 Responses to “Quaker School”

  1. Eli Pacheco Says:

    It’s difficult to know what’s in the heart of a killer. Where violence occurs, it comes from a place of suffering. Whatever suffering this man found himself afflicted with, not even the loving environment of your school could combat it. Prayers to all involved.

    Like

  2. Mandy Says:

    Up until reading your post, I knew very little about Quaker schools aside from their existence. I love that you had a time of “meditation” where you could reflect in silence and share if you felt there was something you wanted to say. I also love that they teach acceptance for all. It sounds like a wonderful school system to grow up in. :)

    With Love,
    Mandy

    Like

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