Saturday, October 15, 2005

Really, What One Thing...

I was premature in my use of the title "What One Thing." When we talk about difference, we're forced to ask what one thing separates us.

Today's Millions More March commemorates the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March. Unlike the Million Man March, the Millions More March includes women, not just as support but in partnership. And, unlike the Million Man March, we've actually heard the words gay and sexual orientation used as part of the rhetoric.

One of the speakers said that the hopes that unite us are stronger than the differences that divide us. But how many of those differences are really important? Even if the differences are ideological, are these ideologies not simply the things that undergird beliefs of difference, but not the differences themselves?

Sweet Honey in The Rock does a song called "No Mirrors." Here are just a sample of the lyrics:

There were no mirrors in my Nana's house,
no mirrors in my Nana's house
There were no mirrors in my Nana's house,
no mirrors in my Nana's house
So, I never knew that my skin was too Black,
and I never knew that my nose was too flat,
and I never knew that my clothes didn't fit,
and I never knew there were things that I missed,
and the beauty that I saw in everything was in her eyes

The voice or storyteller of the song says there were no mirrors in her Nana's house, and so all that she knows about herself, including how she looks and what she has, which speaks to how poor she is, came from what her Nana shares with her. Her Nana doesn't even tell her that she's Black, because she's simply who she is.

In an open letter to those interested in the Millions More Movement, Minister Louis Farrakhan says:

The Millions More Movement is challenging all of us to rise above the things that have kept us divided in the past, by focusing us on the agenda of the Millions More Movement to see how all of us, with all of our varied differences, can come together and direct our energy, not at each other, but at the condition of the reality of the suffering of our people, that we might use all of our skills, gifts and talents to create a better world for ourselves, our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Is this a form of reconciliation? Is this finally a reach-out to the entire Black community, and I do mean the entire community? Is this the first step in acknowledging that none of us are "too Black" or that our clothes don't fit? I'm perfectly willing to accept that what we know is shaped by what we've learned, which is what someone else knows. I'm also willing to accept that what you know has the potential to hurt me physically, financially, spiritually. You're sharing and acting on what you know, given to you by someone else, who shared what they knew. But, at what point do we accept that what we know to be right is wrong, and what we know to be wrong is right? Is that not the one thing that makes us different?

If we can accept that racism, even that which supposedly has Biblical support, is wrong, if we can accept that sexism, even that which supposedly has Biblical roots, is wrong, if we can accept that Biblical support for slavery, dietary laws, revenge and war-mongering, directions for mating, industry, the participation of religious people in a non-religious society, and yes, even consensual psycho-sexual behavior between adults just doesn't make sense for modern times based on ancient practices, then what one thing really divides us?

I once heard a Black lesbian who was a part of the Black Panther Party talk about a disagreement she had with a heterosexual male member of the Party. He suggested that being a lesbian was a betrayal of her Blackness, and that she couldn't make a good Party member. She asked him if she had the ability to work with him, and protect him from the Klan, would he refuse her help because she was a lesbian? And, would he refuse to protect her because she was a lesbian or save her because she was Black?

From Farrakhan's letter:

I cannot fault a Christian pastor for standing on his platform to preach what he believes, nor a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or a member of any religious or political party. All of us must be true to what we earnestly believe. I cannot fault a gay or lesbian person who stands on their platform to preach what they believe of self and how the world should view them. Although what we say on our platform may, in some way, be offensive to others, we must not allow painful utterances of the past or present, based on sincere belief, or based on our ignorance, or based on our ideology or philosophy to cripple a movement that deserves and needs all of us—and, when I say all, I mean all of us. We must begin to work together to lift our people out of the miserable and wretched condition in which we find ourselves.

What is the one thing that separates us? Is there really something that makes us different? Is there?


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