"President Obama is a communist-raised, communist-educated, communist- nurtured, sub-human mongrel," Ted Nugent, spoken at a Las Vegas gun exposition.
Marilyn Bennett and I are Co-Partners in Truth in Progress. She is white and lesbian, I am black and straight. We say, "Truth in Progress is a multi-media project dealing with issues of race, sexual orientation and religion. We take a special look at the similar, yet different experiences and histories of the Black Civil Rights and LGBT Equality Movements."
My intent in this article is "take a special look" at the words of Ted Nugent and relate them to the words that Jackie Robinson experienced as he became the first black to enter Major League Baseball, the verbal hatred Henry "Hank" Aaron experienced as he moved toward breaking Babe Ruth's homerun record, and finally, the relationship of the killings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis.
Marilyn is responsible for our going to Selma and Brown's Chapel AME Church where I had been years ago, as a participant in the Selma to Montgomery March. She saw my tears and was deeply aware of my emotions as I re-visited that place. Marilyn also with the kind of sensitive empathy that hers although she is not black noticed that in one of our filmed interviews, the white gay man we were interviewing, with deliberation and intent, looked at her during the interview while practically ignoring me. And, Marilyn was with me and observed how a New York cab driver refused to pick me up as a fare, until the nearby NY policeman in a squad car intervened and made him take me. I share all of this to say that Marilyn in our TIP partnership, as a white person, has seen and understood and responded to the negatives that sometimes are experienced by those of us who are black men.
My hope is that I have and will demonstrate the same kind of sensitivity, understanding and response, as she experiences negatives because she is lesbian.
There are three books that have served to guide the words that I write in this epistle: Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin; The Wounded Healer, Henri J.M. Nouwen; and Intelligent Influence: The 4 Steps of Highly Successful Leaders and Organizations, Dale G. Caldwell.
My intent in these words is to seek to "get inside" the minds and hearts and emotions of white men, as John Howard Griffin did as a white man who chemically changed his color to experience what it meant to be a black man. To tap into the woundedness that has been mine, as a black man in a racially insensitive at best, racist culture at worst. And to explore what might have been the influences, that have shaped the racial attitudes and actions of Ted Nugent, George Zimmerman, Michael Dunn, and those who resisted the presence of Jackie Robinson and "Hank" Aaron.
It has been said, "Never judge another person until you have walked in their shoes" I first heard the "n-word" when I was about 5 years old. It was in Winston-Salem, NC as I was holding my father's hand in a 5 and 10 cents store as he was making a purchase and a white woman walked up and said loudly to the clerk, "What do you mean serving "n_____" before you serve white people?" The clerk moved from my father to the newly arrived woman, and my father stepped back until the woman had made her purchase. What was in the mind and heart of this woman as she with great emotion, said what she said and did what she did? Had she been emotionally wounded by blacks, as blacks were emotionally, and often physically wounded by whites? What were the operating principles in those whites who kept black people out of their neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, stores, restaurants, voting booths and churches?
Grace and I before we got married, were driving to her home on the outskirts of Greensboro, NC, our hometown, and saw a gathering of persons in a field not to far from her home. We drove to find out who they were, and as we saw the robes that they were wearing and the flaming torches that they held, we realized we were on the edge of a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan. What was it that motivated those men and women to gather as they did, wear what they wore, and say what they did, about black persons?
I had thought as a now 80 year old, that in 2014 whatever it was that drove some white people to do what they did to those of us who were black, was a thing of the past and I would no longer have to spend time wondering about what it would be like to spend some time in the body, mind and spirit of a person who was anti-black. But, I have discovered that in this time that is NOT post racial or racist, I must continue to "IMAGINE" (Not the song of John Lennon) what causes some persons to hate blacks.
It was the awareness of the wounds caused by racial hatred that helped to shape the nonviolence of the Civil Rights Movement. We knew in very practical ways that "an eye for an eye" and a tooth for a tooth" would leave us all blind and toothless. And, we knew that the wounds should shape the Beloved Community we sought to help create that black persons received as they survived slavery and racial segregation. Henri Nouwen in his book expressed the thoughts of Carl Jung as Jung wrote, "...the analyst is motivated to treat persons who are emotionally wounded, because the analyst, himself/herself is wounded."
Marilyn and I in Truth in Progress are deeply aware of the wounds that are ours caused by those who abuse us because she is lesbian and I am black. But what is the source, cause and reason within those who abuse us because of her sexual orientation and me because of my race? It is this question that shapes the quest of TIP.