My stars, the words that come out of the mouths of some ministers!
You’ve all heard or read what Jesse Jackson — you’ll pardon me if I don’t put “reverend” in front of his name — said he’d like to do with two certain parts of Sen. Barack Obama’s anatomy. That may have surprised a lot of black folks. It didn’t surprise me. I’ve been writing for years that the man isn’t worth a tinker’s dam, only to have black folks whip out the Uncle Tom/Sambo card on me.
But while I expected such language from Jackson — Mumia Abu Jamal claims Jackson called black folks in Philadelphia’s MOVE organization “a bunch of nappy-headed niggers who don’t wash” — my concern isn’t about Jesse. It’s about the man Jesse once worked with.
I’m starting to wonder if we should re-evaluate Martin Luther King Jr. If there’s any truth to the adage “birds of a feather flock together,” maybe we should. King biographer Taylor Branch wrote in “Pillar of Fire” that FBI wiretaps revealed King saying something about a grieving Jackie Kennedy that was even more revolting than what Jackson said about Obama.
It was so revolting, in fact, that I can’t repeat it in this column. BlackAmericaWeb.com editors have too much class and dignity for that, so I won’t even bother to so much as let them edit the words out. But what King said about Jackie Kennedy as she knelt praying at President Kennedy’s coffin is on page 250 of the hardcover edition, if you care to have a look.
There’s more of King’s raunchy language of page 207 of “Pillar of Fire,” in which FBI tapes caught him in the sex act shouting “I’m having sex for God!” (Note: the sex wasn’t with his wife, Coretta.) But King didn’t say “having sex.” He actually dropped the old F-bomb. On the same tape, King is still engaged in a sexual act when he shouts “I’m not a Negro tonight!”
That line has prompted three questions from me since the first moment I read it.
1. What was this woman doing to King that made him forsake his race and ethnicity?
2. Who was she, exactly?
3. Most important, why can’t I ever find women like this?
King’s extra-marital affairs have been known for years. I got confirmation of them around 1970 from a guy who should have known: Rev. James Bevel, a former King aide.
My BlackAmericaWeb.com colleague wrote about Bevel a while back. He was recently convicted of having sex with his own daughters when they were underage. I saw that conviction coming almost 40 years ago.
Bevel arrived in Baltimore circa 1970 to, he claimed, start a new organization called MAN, an acronym for Making A Nation. It turns out Bevel needed a new organization because his old one, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, had fired him. I didn’t know the reason then, but I sure as heck have some inkling now.
Free love and nude encounter sessions were part of the MAN agenda. Bevel advocated that every man in MAN was free to have sex with any woman, and vice versa. I had a chance to join Bevel’s “organization.” I was 19, horny as a tomcat and, like any red-blooded heterosexual American male of that era, dying to get laid.
But not badly enough to join MAN. There were just some things a nice Catholic kid from West Baltimore didn’t do.
Bevel wasn’t just a basket case when it came to sex. I first saw him in action during a speech he gave in a classroom on the campus of Johns Hopkins University. Some white kid asked a perfectly innocuous question. Bevel grabbed a walking stick he carried, barreled through some desks, shot up to the white kid and grabbed him by the hair.
“I ought to beat you with this stick, you white boy you!” Bevel snarled.
I sat there thinking, “This NUT was an aide to Martin Luther King?”
Indeed, he was. And, according to most histories of the civil rights movement, he was a very skilled and effective organizer. Jackson at one time showed promise as a leader and activist. King’s record of achievements in the civil rights field is almost without peer. But it’s clear now all three of these men had a side few ever knew.
There’s a theory that the children of ministers — preachers’ kids or “PK’s” — tend to be a bit on the wild side. But maybe it’s not the PK’s we need to keep an eye on.
Maybe it’s the preachers.
Hmmmm… Ok let’s start with my first question. What is the purpose of this commentary? Is it to discuss PK’s or MLK’s sex life? The latter seems to be the case as there is not an attempt to discuss the challenges and behaviors of PKs. When the writer suggests that we re-evaluate the way we see Dr. King, I wonder what is it that he plans to re-evaluate. I’ll return to that point shortly.
First of all it’s general information that Dr. King was not faithful to Coretta during their whole marriage. I recall when Ralph Abernathy wrote his book back in the day and appeared on the Donahue show to talk about it. In that book he discussed King’s affairs. Michael Eric Dyson’s book, “I May Not Get There With You,” was written for the sole purpose of balancing the King legacy in terms of showing King to be fully human including the flaws who accomplished extraordinary things for the nation and black people in particular. Dyson’s book dealt with how American whites generally want to turn King’s words and work into merely a dream speech – without tackling the meaty issues that he addressed that the nation didn’t want to hear then and do not want to hear now. In short they want to make him a toothless lion. For blacks we have tended to deify King to the point of making him like a Jr. God. Branch, whom the writer references did several well researched scholarly books on the King years. I would recommend them all. King’s story is phenomenal. And Branch touches on a history that is so detailed with facts and stories, it’s a biographical journey. I blogged about these books recently.
But back to the writer again… What is he trying to say? Because King came up short in his marriage vows and said some wild things in bed we need to re-evaluate his contributions? What the….? First of all let’s remember that the reason King was illegally wire tapped in the first place was because the head of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover was obsessed with ruining King’s life and bringing down the civil rights movement. I would suggest the writer do some study on Hoover and all the callous work the FBI did especially during the 50’s and 60s. Hoover had files on everyone in public life… Dick Gregory, John Lennon etc. Anyone who represented independent though or had a following Hoover went after. He even sent notes to King posing as Andrew Young to try to convince King to commit suicide. Finally, I wonder if the writer knows that though Edgar was a fierce racist and homophobe, he was also a cross dresser himself. Now with that said I wonder… who the hell makes a judgment on a man or tries to seriously examine words and phrases he says when he is engaged in sexual acts? Sex involves reality and fantasy and therefore without speaking to King about it, it would be impossible if not silly and illogical to try to critically analyze it. Second, if the FBI were to record the sexual acts and the words of the writer, would he feel it worthy of public critique? It’s kind of a losing battle if you ask me. If he says wild things from the outside it’s easy to ridicule the writer as he did King. And yet if his language is simple and generic he’s gives the perception of being dull in bed at the very least. I wonder if the writer really wants to go down that slippery slope.
Finally I ask again… what is it to re-evaluate? The accomplishment King and his supporters made for equal rights? The fact that he personified the non-violent movement from the American perspective, and was jailed countless times for a people he loved and the justice he sought? The fact that he is still arguably the best American we have ever produced? Or the fact that he gave his life for what he believed in by being assassinated by his own government – the same government that tapped his phone, spied on him, sent black men to infiltrate his organizations? The fact that the writer stands and judges this man with words that lack the reasoning of my soon to be 5th grader and can post it on BlackAmericaWeb is what we really need to re-evaluate.