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Controversy at the Bangkok Meeting -- Part Four


Returning home, I vowed that never again would I pour out my soul trying to make whites feel, identify or empathize, to understand that society has dehumanized both of us… whites by instilling a sense of somebodiness predicated upon an illusion of blacks’ nobodiness; and blacks by instilling a sense of inferiority built upon an illusion of whites’ superiority and mastery. The angry words and menacing decorum of blacks is another way of saying, “I’m hurting and I know it. You’re hurting and don’t know it. Both of us have been short-changed by society. My words and assertiveness are attempts to startle you to the reality of the situation. I’m trying to assert my new identity, show you my pain and scares, and hope that you get the message and join the search for new definitions of who we are; definitions that comport with unmanufactured and unmanipulated reality; definitions that comport with unmanufactured and unmanipulated reality; definitions rooted in the noble idea of “the brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God”.

That is what blacks are really saying. Especially those who are trying to be disciples of Jesus and this is true of other blacks more than they like to admit. After all, even James Forman came to the churches with his reparation idea which seems to indicate a credence in the morality of American churches, and the eagerness with which blacks are quick to enter into raging rhetoric with whites again confirms the above.

I say the same white reactions (or lack of reactions) in Bangkok that I saw in California and that I have seen thousand times over. Blacks angrily asserting themselves, candidly speaking their hearts, and whites were unable or unwilling to deal with it. It is really the black power issue all over again. There was a kind of “lovey-dovey” relationship between blacks and whites during the civil white, I mean civil rights days. Blacks, I mean Negroes (Blacks was a term used later as the need to define for us, to us, and to the world who we were) and whites stood with arms intertwined, marched, and sang together, “We Shall Overcome”. Whites were speaking for Negroes telling us, themselves, and the world who we were, what we wanted when we wanted it, and where we wanted it. Negroes were speaking to, whenever and whatever whites wanted them to. Dr. Ralph Bunch had said in the forties, “All Negro and white cooperation ended up with Negroes cooing and whites operating.”

Shockingly, even that arrangement, most whites in America couldn’t accept. Remember the pious clergy of Birmingham, Alabama admonishing Martin Luther King, languishing in a jail cell “to wait”. Remember Eisenhower telling the N.A.A.C.P. Convention “to go slow” which elicited the reply from Roy Wilkins, the eternal moderate, “That’s startling advice”.

Then suddenly, Black Power! Negroes started screaming, “I’m black and proud”. “We need to bring whitey to his knees”. “Burn baby burn”. Tough-talking, mean-looking blacks were everywhere talking about “getting our thing together”. Wide publicity was given to a religious group which called white people devils and elevated the virtues of blacks to the deity. Malcolm X and Stokley Carmichael, handsome, dashing, and articulate became the new heroes of young black people publicly and older blacks privately.

What did it all mean? Whites were asking, “Who is this new nigger? So different from the nigger we once knew? These new niggers talking all that black power stuff were communists, hoodlums…etc.” And to the liberals – “they were ungrateful”. “After all we have done for them, and the legislation we got passed for them; and the jobs we got for them; and all the doors of restaurants, hotels, train stations, and buses that we opened for them; and now they are talking about black power and self-determination and empowerment. Now they are telling us to participate on their terms. What’s gotten into them? Don’t they remember Abraham Lincoln, John Brown, the abolitionist movement, J.F.K., and all the rest of us noble whites who did so much for them?”

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