There are so many realities that still hurt Black People, that can be directly attributed to the history of "Slavery and Segregation" in our country. I know I am about to talk about a subject that many folks would rather we not discuss. It is painful and creates an immediate reaction for some, that we are "airing" our "dirty laundry". But this is the same thinking and actions that allow Sexual Abuse to run rampant in our society. Let me attempt to give my "opinionated assessment" of Sexual Abuse in the Black Community.
During Slavery & Segregation, it was necessary for Black People to attempt to "protect" each other at all cost. We got good at keeping "secrets" from the Slave Master and the White Community at large. It was necessary to lie and conceal information, for your life and the life of others could depend on how well you could lie to White People. This behavior was necessary in order to stay safe. Now, this is not a history lesson so I will not stay on this point. However, it is necessary to know this fact in order to know why we react the way we do when a Black Leader (particularly a Black Man) is seemingly, under attack. The "protective" reaction is at it's highest, when it seems the Black Church is being attacked. It is important to know, that during "Slavery & Segregation" our only true support and advocacy was birthed in the Black Church. All Black Civil Rights organizations gained their strength through partnerships with the Black Churches. In other words, in order to really reach the people you had to go through the most respected persons in the community. Of course, that was the Black Ministers/Clergy. Today, not much has changed in the Black Community concerning how we elevate our Black clergy.
Sexual Abuse prospers in the Black Community through our teaching to not be a "SNITCH". Now when you take a subject like Sexual Abuse that we don't like talking about in society and mix it with an allegation made against a Black Church Leader, what you have is a "disconnect between the facts and our distrust of what we believe is the White Community...the MEDIA"! When we use as an example the O.J. Simpson murder case, we see a position in the Black community that "if you can't prove it, than he didn't do it". Many of us felt that if he did do it and got away with it, "than that does not come close to making up for all the innocent Black People that was killed during Slavery & Segregation". I am a Black Man in America. I understand. Just because we have a Black President, doesn't mean "racism" has disappeared. I understand these feelings that exist in the Black community. However, I must draw the line and scream LOUDLY, when we began to allow "unhealed wounds" to put our Children "at risk of sexual predators". We must stop it now. Please! For the sake of our children.
Now, let's examine the Bishop Eddie Long Issue:Clergy Sexual Abuse has no color or specific religion. It is always shocking and always the same "old" story. A powerful man, who is anointed by God, helped so many, done so much, saved so many.................And YES he is a sexual predator. The Faith Community is shocked and don't want to believe the "signs" which are clear. Let's examine the allegations:
Bishop Long "did or did not" buy expensive gifts for these teenagers/men
Bishop Long "did or did not" fly these teenagers/men around the world
Bishop Long "did or did not" stay in the same room with these teenagers/men when they traveled
Bishop Long "did or did not" provide houses and cars free to these teenagers/men
Bishop Long "did or did not" send pictures of himself in tight fitting clothes, taken by him, in a bathroom to these teenagers/men
Of the five items listed which ones would you be ok with him doing for or with your own children? None for my child please. I'm not sure if it is because I have worked in Child Welfare for 20 years or it's because I am a survivor of childhood Clergy sexual abuse, but I know there are always signs. I know that I am suspicious of any adult spending "alone" time with any child other than their own. I know to ask questions about this behavior when I see it. I know my help of kids does not include a desire to send them pictures of me or buy them expensive presents. I can't see God in that behavior. I see a possible sexual predator.
Now let's get something clear. It is not possible that NO ONE in the Church knew about this behavior. It is possible that many of the congregation believed what they wanted to believe instead of what they knew they saw. I agree that clergy should be respected. I agree that clergy can help us grow closer to Christ. I also agree that clergy are humans and sin like all men and women. For this reason, I supervise their interactions with children just like I would with any other adult. Children depend on adults to protect them. I will not be traveling with anyones children alone and no adult will be traveling with my child or any other child alone if it is not their child, without me asking questions. We must learn not to give clergy trust that we wouldn't give any other adult with children. Again, we all sin. No man or woman is God, so we all struggle with sin. This is true no matter how many thousands or millions of people believe in your message. Let's stop acting as if we don't know that or that it is only true if you are not clergy.
As I mention in my book, From Abused to Protector: “Claiming Your Life After Your Church Sexually Abuses You” A Story of Hope, Forgiveness and Triumph, there are ten things that all adults can do to prevent sexual abuse.
1. Parents need to be watchful of all children as if they were their own.
2. Parents should know the parents and other family members of their children’s friends before allowing them to play unsupervised or spend a night at the friend’s house.
3. All parents should be involved in the PTA at school.
4. We must demand that Child Welfare programs be fully funded so that case loads are manageable.
5. Our Child Welfare system should be preventive rather than reactive. We shouldn’t be working with a foster care system that doesn’t graduate children and bounces them around to strangers instead of family members.
6. Churches need to require background checks for all personnel.
7. There should be a strict curfew for all children.
8. We must demand that all Child Welfare professionals be competent – especially the leaders!
9. We have to make sure that those engaged in social work have their heart in the right place. Just having the right degrees is never enough. These are jobs that require passion and commitment. There is no room for complacency.
10. Realize that, regardless of how much money we might spend, ultimately it is not up to the government to fix this problem. Communities must live up to their own responsibilities right in their own neighborhoods, schools, churches and homes. Sexual and physical abusers are no match for dogged vigilance. They can and must be stopped!