|The Pastor's Visit|
|Underground Rail Road|
Any human tragedy story really taken to heart may be acknowledged and remembered making possible that healing from sin can be forthcoming. But a story, that is ours, not so absorbed makes forthcoming redemption impossible. I fear this remains the case for a significant part of white America today.
The Dream: I was working for my older brother whom I had great respect for. I noticed an old small brick building that belonged to him was in poor condition and thought perhaps I could do some repairs, at least shore it up so it did not completely collapse. I opened the sagging door and there my brother sat at a dirty computer with his feet on a dirt floor in a totally filthy room. He did not look like himself at all. Also, he was totally depleted -dirty, unshaven, barefoot and very inebriated. He was indicating that he was about to lose everything he owned and it had to do with this building being taken or sold. He also was not at all interested in my wanting to improve it. He was very irritated with me. So I left and then began to notice there was at least a whole city block of such buildings and that they were not even visible to the surrounding community.
I toured these buildings and they were deplorable-dilapidated, piled high with garbage and the smell of human waste. They were all inhabited by black people. These people were lifeless, barely moving about. Many seemed to be living their whole life in these buildings. A dead human body not fully decayed lay in the trash of one of the rooms. In the largest building, somewhat like a gymnasium, there were huge murals of a black man in what had been bright colors on the wall. The people indicated that he had been a black celebrity, perhaps a jazz musician.
But in their condition they could barely appreciate this deceased extraordinary person and dirt covered much of the murals. One person said with despairing philosophical certainty, " If life does not get you as you breathe in it will get you when you breath out." As I came out some black people were expressing rage about the deplorable condition of these buildings and the tragedy happening to the people who lived there. They were angry at my brother and blamed him for not being responsible and humane to these people living in his buildings. I did not so much share their rage as much as just having a sick feeling and awful sadness for the harsh realities of these people , the buildings that represented their existence and for the total despair I saw in my brother. Then a very authoritative voice gave me what again was only bad news. "Your brother knew this was the exact day this change was to be made." This seemed to say that my respected boss was completely insincere and only faking his despair. Sure enough I saw him again and he was now all dressed up and happy. It seemed that perhaps he had let these deplorable human situations develop with a plan of selling them at a huge profit for himself.
I went back to the buildings and to my delightful surprise they had been fully renewed. They had kept their ethnic and old demeanor but were upgraded, restored and refreshed. The same people were living there but now bustling about and full of energy , conversation and laughter.
I was in the gymnasium building. The murals were still there but now cleaned and the bright colors fully renewed. I stood with some black males of various ages. They were admiring the murals and discussing the many ways these buildings were now going to be able to be of service to the people living there as well as to the surrounding community at large. It was truly a joyful, hopeful and thoroughly human place to be. It was alive with positive creativity and human joy.
The dream did not say this directly but I concluded that this was actually what my brother had been planning all along. That 'this was the day' that he actually knew was coming and it had. This dream I believe deserves much reflection on my part. This essay is the beginning of that reflection. I have found that to write something personal down is a sure way of honoring it and showing that you take it seriously , that you welcome it into your consciousness . It is saying that you will try to bring it to as fully a conscious state as possible. Even though I knew of this dream this AM, not until a few hours ago did I really begin to try to collect it up and embrace it. During my walk is when I actually created this essay and it is now written nearly exactly as I gathered in my mind during the walk. A first thing that I realize is that my brother is not really what this dream is about. It is about all my brothers, my white male forebears and my present white brothers. So in a real way also the white brother is me. It acknowledges the horrible shadow that we white brothers carry in relation to the black American culture. But it also shows our capacity and that we are still working at some level, perhaps still very unconsciously, for the great day when we will not have used the black people for our own benefit which was done for at least 150 years . But instead we will have been a key element in their becoming more fully who they truly are and our becoming more fully who we potentially are. That gives me much hope for the future.
An important side thought that it generates with me has to do with Eros. For many whites black sexuality is a wonder and an mystery. When in Florence in the summer of 1985 I had very significant conversations with some black people at a local park. These were primarily female. I think we knew we were talking at deeper levels than usually happens between the ethnic groups in North Alabama. I for sure knew I was. We simply found that space where such conversation could happen. I recall after a very respectful and frank conversation regarding love and sexuality that one of the women asked me, " Jim, would you ever consider marrying a black woman." I recall quickly and easily answering her, " Yes, of course I would if I fell in love with a black woman and I know it would be just as likely that I would fall in love with a black woman as a white one if I were around black people as much as I am whites." I have no evidence but I intuit that black people are closer to experiencing a fuller Eros of joy in sexuality and to life in general. I have a strong desire that American black people be able to fully experience their Eros joy which they so fully deserve. I hope that speaking of ethnic differences like this is not considered racist. I don't think it is. I'm talking of a possible difference in blacks that whites need so much to learn more about. This is that blacks may be closer to erotic joy than the typical white American. An aspect of love is still more natural and alive with American black culture than it may be with American white culture. This is likely true regarding the pure human joy of two spiritual beings in devoted loving sexual experience as well as a joy of life, family and community. These, if not already more lived by blacks, seem to be nearer the surface than is true for whites. Our forebears pressed hard upon these African people to repress this God given Eros that is part of their humanity and also potentially ours. It is likely in our willingness to kill Eros in the black people that we killed it in ourselves.