I want to share this from The Third Estate Sunday Review. "Five Books, Five Minutes" is the feature and I'm going to include a section of it here. I think it's worth discussing and thinking about. Read the whole feature because there's a lot to in there. The people who took part were:
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and Jim, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz and Wally of The Daily Jot.
Here's the excerpt:
Jim: Okay, so we'll move on. We have a book dealing with the media, but I found Cedric's pick to be interesting and I think we can shake things up by selecting it next.
Cedric: I was at the library looking for a book we did last time and saw Time On Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin which is edited by Devon W. Carbado and Donald Weise. I didn't know anything about Rustin which is always something we look for when picking out books, going with something other than what's on the top ten list this week. What I learned was that Rustin was part of the civil rights movement, a big part of it, in fact. "Time on Two Crosses" refers to the fact that Rustin was both African-American and gay.
Betty: And so he's got two crosses to bear at a time when Blacks aren't recognized as equals and when gays and lesbians seem as worthy of less than equal rights.Wally: The book included his debate with Malcolm X.
Rebecca: Right, it's not just a collection of writings, but also includes interviews and in that case, a transcription.
C.I.: I'm staying silent for this discussion due to having eaten up so much time being the "defender of TV" before. But it needs to be noted that the discussion was done for WBAI radio which is a Pacifica Radio station.
Mike: I didn't know that.
Elaine: So let me do the plug C.I. wants to do but is biting the tongue on. If you saw the coverage of Rosa Parks on Democracy Now! or heard it on Pacifica stations, you realize that their archives are very rich. That's due to things like airing this discussion between two leaders that the mainstream media wasn't interested in.
Ava: Because years from now when someone like Medea Benjamin or Arundhati Roy or Tariq Ali or anyone like that passes away, a tribute's going to be hard for the mainstream media to put together. They'll have plenty of clips of Tim Russert speaking to John McCain yet again. But people who are truly leaders, not "powerful" because they were elected, are not covered. You saw that with Rosa Park's passing. Mainstream media working overtime to get some sort of tribute together for a woman that they were largely uninterested in hearing from.
Kat: In fact, Amy Goodman issued a challenge or made an offer during their coverage of Rosa Parks on Democracy Now!
Cedric: Right. I think she noted that they were airing excerpts from a Pacifica interview done in the fifties, shortly after Ms. Parks had sparked a movement, and Amy Goodman noted that you wouldn't see footage like that on TV and offered that if any networks wanted to use it for a tribute, they'd allow them to, this wasn't an open offer this was for that time period, free of charge, but it was doubtful anyone would take them up on it. And to the best of my knowledge, no one did.
C.I.: Jumping in again. Dallas can't find the link. Rebecca, do you know what we're talking about?
Rebecca: I know the interview, but not the offer. Maybe I was running to the kitchen for another cup of coffee that morning?
C.I.: The people who've cited that, and I remember it too, listen to the show. The Rosa Parks coverage occurred during the tail end of Pacifica's pledge drive. Something could have been left out of the transcript but Dallas found the link to the interview and I'm thinking that, if the transcript didn't leave something out, this was actually an offer/challenge Amy Goodman made outside of the Democracy Now! broadcast. I know she mentioned it after Democracy Now! the day after the interview had aired. Kat, Cedric and Ava listen. Rebecca watches Democracy Now! on TV. I think, and I could be wrong, you had to be listening to Pacifica during that [pledge drive] to have heard it. She may have made it during Democracy Now!'s airing but if so, it was in what would be the musical breaks between segments if you weren't listening via a Pacifica station.
Cedric: One thing that puzzled me was why the host of the discussion between Malcolm X and Rustin wasn't identified except as "HOST"? I'm also wondering who you found yourself siding with in the discussion?
Jess: For me, it was Malcolm. I know his writing and his story, so I may have been filling in details that I wasn't able to with Rustin but I got the impression that Rustin grew more cautious with age.
Betty: I'd agree with that except for the issue of sexuality. That reads cautious today but for the time period, that is a big deal. And I'll add that he was known within the civil rights movment as gay and, in fact, within the nation since an arrest was used by a White senator to force Rustin out of the movement. But in terms of discussing his sexuality publicly, that's in the eighties. And it was a big deal.
Cedric: And you can say it still is a big deal because Rustin is one of the civil rights pioneer, very essential to the movement, and he's not someone that is stressed when you hear of the civil rights movement.
Betty: I'd agree with that. I'd add that it's part of our community's, I'm speaking of the Black community and directing the "our" to Cedric, refusal or reluctance to address the issue of sexuality and orientation. I think it's embarrassing. Of course some do address it. But we've allowed it to be a something that can turn against each other. Bully Boy's been able to use it with some Black churches, sexual orientation, to turn them against their own interests. In my church we had to deal with it, we had too many members and families of members who were dealing with AIDS. It's one of the healthiest things we've done. With the empahis on family in the Black community, I look skeptical at any Black person that tells me they've never met a gay or lesbian. They are in our families, they are in our churches and it distresses that a White Bully Boy has been allowed by some "Black leaders" to turn us against each other. There's some idiot. and I use that term by choice, Cedric's also heard him, his "sermons" get passed around in e-mails. And for someone so supposedly opposed to gays and lesbians, he sure knows a lot about gay sex and he sure seems to enjoy talking about it in terms that I can't imagine sex being talked about in my church.
Cedric: Yeah, that guy is an idiot. And every month or so, it'll pop up in an e-mail forward to someone in the office and they'll be giggling at it. They say, if you ask them, they're laughing at how stupid he is. Well that doesn't help the race either, flaunting ignorance. I really do not have respect for people who pass that around, either out of their own beliefs or to giggle over.
Ty: And this goes to what erases Rustin for history and how a race whose leaders want to fuss and fret over language don't want to address serious issues. I mean, where is Bill Cosby on this issue? Where his speech on the need for us to embrace one another?
Betty: Exactly, you can list the leaders who've addressed this topic in any form and it's a small list. Coretta Scott King and Julian Bond would be on the list but a lot of other so-called "brave" voices wouldn't be. I like Jesse Jackson but I don't respect his opinions on this issue.
Rebecca: Which is interesting that you cite him when Rustin cites him as one of the people working to turn MLK against him.
Ty: And it's forty years later and he still hasn't changed his tune.Cedric: I don't know if Dona wants to call time or not, I know we've got Betty's pick still to do.
Dona: No, this has been an interesting discussion and we can extend. We actually have two more books.
Cedric: Well I'll make my comment and try to be brief about it. Some African-Americans are offended when sexual orientation is likened to race. And it's not just that. You heard some nonsense about "Cindy Sheehan is no Rosa Parks!" As though allowing someone else to build on a very powerful movement will erase Ms. Parks. It won't. It will only extend her reach and future generations' knowlege of her. I hear, everyone hears, modern day comparisons to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or whomever. They become points of reference. I can understand the fear here because any minority group risks being stripped of whatever place in history they've earned. But while realizing that, we should realize that part of what makes Whites such a point of history, besides who got to draw it up, is that it is a short hand. Most people couldn't tell you where Thomas Jefferson was born. But they can use him as a point of reference. When the civil rights movement is used as a point of reference, I think it extends the movement, keeps it alive in history and increases knowledge. Otherwise it's going to be confined to one time, one period, one group and it will be ghetto-ized in terms of how history is taught. I'm thrilled that we have our African-American heroes but I want to see them be heroes for all. They fought as hard as anyone else and they are a part of American history. I was thrilled to hear some people calling Cindy Sheehan the Rosa Parks of the peace movement. I see it as a huge improvement over years of someone being "the Black __" who ever. We have heroic figures and their struggles are heroic. If they inspire people that's a great thing, regardless of race. The point of teaching Black History is to get it back into our understanding of history. It's a part of American history and hopefully it will be worked into American history more and more with each generation. I'm done.
Ty: I'll add that I agree with Cedric. I've attended predominately African-American schools and predominatley White ones. And I've seen a "Oh, it's Black history" type collective groan at some of the White schools. In standing up for her race, Rosa Parks stood up for a better nation.I didn't always hear that point in made in school.
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