A voice from my past called to my soul the other day as I listened to some of the news accounts about all the folks across the political and social spectrum who have been found or admitted to wearing …
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A voice from my past called to my soul the other day as I listened to some of the news accounts about all the folks across the political and social spectrum who have been found or admitted to wearing “blackface” at some point in their lives.
While the jury is still out — and always will be — on the full implications of what’s behind those actions, including who did it and when and where and why, it seems to me any clear-thinking human has got to believe it’s wrong to exhibit mean-spirited behavior to any other individual or group of people. And maybe that’s the key — the difference between things done with evil intent and those done either in jest or juvenile foolishness.
I say that to say that, to me, it’s just as bad to see Ted Danson dressed in blackface speaking from a podium while Whoopi Goldberg, seated to his left, laughs and smiles at the whole thing as are any of the incidents shown and reshown recently. Is it OK that he did that while the two of them were a couple? If it’s OK, does that mean there’s a double standard? And if it’s not OK, where’s the moral outrage over this incident?
Maybe there isn’t any outrage because Ted did his in jest. I know I don’t register any offense when folks tell Polish jokes around me. Someone asked me once if I knew how many Polacks it took to change a light bulb in a lamp. When I said I didn’t, my friend told me it took six — one to hold the bulb and five to turn the lamp. Should I be offended at that, considering my father’s father got off the boat at Ellis Island sometime around 1890 after living his life up to that point in Warsaw, Poland?
It’s hard — nay, impossible — to legislate behavior and morality. Those things come from the heart. A verse in the Old Testament book of Proverbs tells us plainly that we should “guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
With that truth in mind and with it being accompanied by all the publicity about blackface, I hearkened back to that time in my past when Uncle Remus was my hero. I don’t know for sure how old I was; I just remember watching Joel Chandler Harris’ “Song of the South” and wishing Uncle Remus, a central character in it, was my grandpa.
Before you read any further and think me uninformed, let me hasten to say I know that movie was an idealized version of a terrible time in our nation’s history. There’s another side to the story, one worth noting that can be seen in such productions as “Roots” or “Amistad.” But here’s why Uncle Remus and his stories and characters came to mind.
As he was telling stories to a little boy, he spoke of such woodland creatures as Brer (Brother) Rabbit and Brer Bear and Brer Fox. These three exhibited human characteristics, which was the purpose Harris had in mind as he wrote down many of those stories he had first heard in oral black literature.
You see, it was Brer Rabbit who convinced Brer Fox and Brer Bear to let him show them his “laughing place,” saving him from being the main course for dinner. His laughing place was a special place where he went when he wanted to improve his mood and while the bees that attacked Brer Bear and Brer Fox and saved Brer Rabbit came from a patch of woods, for Brer Rabbit the laughing place was more a state of mind.
Today, while I don’t have a particular laughing place, I do have a special place I can go for a moment of meditation. My desk sits in a corner of my study and looks out on the western sky. From there, I can see the sunset or watch the cows come and go, grazing or drinking from the pond. Last Christmas, I noticed the reflection of the lights on the tree in the window as I looked out it. It’s a quiet place, most of the time, and it brings me moments of thought and reflection.
If we’re ever, as a people, going to learn to talk and not shout, we need a place physically — and in our hearts. A Bible verse found in Matthew 6:6 tells us that when we pray, we should go into our closet or room and shut the door. Find your own special place — laughing or praying or meditating or otherwise...and go there often.