This article initially started out a bit differently, then my friend and Brother RJ Johnson posted to his Facebook page that he was looking for a place to publish an article he had written. Unfortunately, he felt he could not post it on his blog because it would create blow-back on the other Brethren who write for the site. To call this an unfortunate situation is an understatement, but to those that would say racism is a thing of the past, I would just point you to some of the responses the story has gotten. Its very much alive and well.
So, this is now my second cut at this and I’ve adapted my initial writing to encompass RJ’s story, the response from it, and more. I’m still motivated to get this out though, because Freemasonry can and should be involved in this, both individually and at the Grand Lodge level.
I’ve harped on this before, I’m doing it again, and I will continue to do so until I don’t have to anymore. First and foremost, Brethren, subdue your passions on social media. The disgusting posts I have seen in response to all of this, from fellow Masons, men who have pledged their lives to subduing their passions has been depressing (and that’s being kind). I’m not going to share any of those posts, you may have seen them, you’ve likely seen them, and they’re unbecoming of any decent person to share, let alone a Freemason. What’s especially rich though, is many of these men sharing these incendiary posts are the same to lament on the breakdown in civil discourse in this country. The irony here is apparently lost on them. But its especially infuriating to see Freemasons, MANY Freemasons posting this crap. You see, as Freemasons, subduing our passions (i.e. controlling our impulses) and acting as a good example to mankind is first and foremost what we as an organization are about. Now that’s not to say that we don’t make mistakes, we’re human after all, but being conscious and aware of the decisions we make is paramount in doing so. I’ve posted things on social media I shouldn’t have, we all have. But when you’ve been counseled privately about it, and continue to do it there’s a problem, and unfortunately, most, if not all of these Brothers have been counseled, and its abundantly evident that they are incapable of following their Masonic obligations anywhere but inside the Lodge. If you are one of these Brothers, a long look in the mirror may be beneficial. If you can look yourself in the mirror and realize that what you’re doing is wrong, and not at all aligned with the goals of Freemasonry, great! You do understand what its all about. Change isn’t easy, change is gradual and it takes a long time of practice and effort to get it right.
So, what can we do? Well, as Fellowcrafts we are taught to listen, and I think that is a great place to start. Just listening. But you know what I’ve learned in the short 48 hours since posting that story? Nobody wants to do that, well…about half don’t want to do that. You see, we don’t want to get “political”. You know what? That’s a cop out in my opinion, and I’m going to quote RJ here because I think the point is worth repeating; “…human rights are not political — they’re human rights.” I’m going to repeat that, and build upon it; “human rights” and basic human decency “are not political — they’re human rights”. Full stop.
But I do want to address that, because yes, Masons are told within the confines of a Masonic Lodge or meeting, religion and politics are forbidden topics. But you know what? In my now almost 13 years as a Mason I’ve heard and seen PLENTY of what some could consider political and religious talks from Grand Masters at an official meeting.
At a meeting several years ago, a Grand Master got up and spoke about the American flag. His speech happened to coincide with Collin Kaepernick’s protests of the relationship between this nations police and the African-American community. In it he openly disparaged Mr. Kaepernick and in short called him the antithesis to being American, and a Freemason. This also leaves out the candidate for state office (who wasn’t and is not to this day a Freemason) this event also had as a dinner speaker, but we don’t talk politics at Masonic events…
So, do we not talk politics and religion? Or do we just avoid political and religious topics that personally make us uncomfortable? The above situation could, and absolutely should be considered political by any Masons who support Kaepernick (there are). Sure seems to me that the answer is the latter. Well you know what? These kinds of situations ARE supposed to be uncomfortable; people being treated like second and third class citizens should be appalling to ALL Masons, not just a few.
Another common response is “well, its OK for an individual Brother to get involved, but Grand Lodges should stay out of it”.
Well, the Grand Masters of “mainstream” and Prince Hall Freemasonry in Washington DC disagree with you.
The Grand Masters of “mainstream” and Prince Hall Freemasonry in North Carolina disagree with you.
The Grand Masters of the individual Prince Hall Grand Lodges that have made statements disagree with you.
Unfortunately not too many Grand Lodges in total have spoken up. But I can tell you their Brethren are asking for them to. Go to Facebook and Reddit, look at the comments on these posts; Brethren of various Grand Jurisdictions wishing theirs would make a similar statement. Sadly, many won’t, because of the all to common above excuse. But again, this isn’t a political issue.
Several years ago, the Grand Masters theme in my grand jurisdiction was “A Force for Good”. I do truly believe that Freemasonry can be and is just that. The only way to do this however is not through mere words, but through action as well. Do we, as individual Freemasons and Grand Lodges alike TRULY believe that all humanity is equal, and entitled to equal treatment? Or is this something we just tell ourselves but then hide behind the various platitudes of inaction?
As RJ did in his article, I am going to do the same. I URGE you to watch the panel session hosted by Refracted Light and the NCMRS called Being the Light. If you don’t believe these issues still exist in this country, WATCH…THIS…VIDEO.
As I end this, I want to leave you by answering the question of what can you as an individual Mason do?
Subdue your passions, be the uniting factor of both sides, don’t divide them.
Listen, ask questions…ask GOOD questions. If you’re going to respond with ”but black on black crime” just stop. Now’s not the time (it’s never the time actually).
Speak up, if you want to see your Grand Lodge join those that have released public statements, by all means request it of them. If your Grand Lodge is one of the seven (I’m looking at you Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia) that STILL don’t recognize your Prince Hall counterpart pressure the HELL out of your Grand Lodge to do so. It’s 2020 FFS.
I will say it again, these issues are not political issues, they are issues of human rights, and basic human decency, not politics. As an organization that supports friendship, morality and brotherly love, I think it’s a safe statement in saying human rights and decency fall under that mission. We talk a lot about the good we do in the community, and we do. But doing good in the community isn’t limited to when times are easy. If we can’t rise to the occasion in times like these then we’re just talk, and nothing more.