A Sad Thing

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

Not long after becoming a Master Mason I went to a Third Degree ceremony at my Lodge.  As I stood in line for coffee I heard two men behind me, not from my Lodge, have the following conversation:

Joe: "Well, I hear So-And-So Lodge over in Whatever-Town just initiated an African American.*

Frank: "Oh, so he's both a brothaaaah and a Brother."

Joe: "He ain't my Brother."

*For the record, Joe did not say "African American."

I was stunned.

It was as close as I have ever come to an out of body experience.  Yes, I should have said something.  Yes, I should have taken a stand; but in my mind, I wasn't even there anymore.  I couldn't be there.  I don't associate with that.  It couldn't be happening.

Unfortunately, it did happen.  I came to hope it was an isolated event.  I found out it wasn't.  Not often but every now and then I'd go to a function where someone would make an offhand remark, a quip, tell an inappropriate joke, some of them having a purposeful intent, some without a clue they've said anything unsuitable.

I could go on with examples but the question that comes up is, "What does a guy do?"  I have learned bigots don't change.  They're dug in and any opposition just makes them dig in more. 

When I was in college supporting the seemingly ubiquitous civil rights movement, if you had asked, "Way in the future, say in the year 2015, do you think things will improve significantly," my naïve answer would probably have sounded like a chorus of Crystal Blue Persuasion: "In every nation there'll be peace and good, brotherhood..."

Wow.  Was I ever wrong.

This week, the tipping point came for me in one of my Lodges.  What was passed around on the Lodge's email list was one of those seemingly innocuous little things meant to be funny.   Had that been the end of it I probably would have, like before, let it roll off my back and come away just a little more discouraged about some of our members' levels of ignorance.

Thing is, it didn't stop there.  A poop-storm (you may have a more colorful term) ensued when one of the Brothers had the audacity to suggest it was racist.  The whole thing flamed out in an explosion of profanity that would embarrass the most hard-core longshoreman.  That did it.  I channeled my long-dormant inner tree-hugging-flaming-bleeding-heart-hippie liberal, symbolically ran to my window and did my best Peter Finch imitation:


I won't spiral into the madness of Finch's portrayal of Howard Beale in Network, but I mean it.

For starters, I am no longer a member of that Lodge.  To be fair, there are Brothers there who found the situation as abhorrent as I did, and they have been supportive. I could have stayed to "fight the good fight" or make change from within.  Aside from the fact it would be a long, if not futile exercise, in this case I wanted to make the statement: I will not be associated with it.

For me, no longer do the offhand remarks, quips and inappropriate jokes get a free ride.  I know for certain the Grand Line officers in my state stand solidly against such bigotry and that will help (See "The Incident" in the Midnight Freemasons blog HERE).

We like to say Freemasonry makes good men better.  We all have shortcomings but by any sane standard the "good men" category excludes racists.  Unfortunately, more than a few have slithered into our fraternity.  It's a sad thing.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft, will be released later this year.


  1. Why do Utah Mason's hate Mormon Masons?

  2. We unfortunately have some of the same issues here in New Jersey, even though we have one historically black lodge (Alpha 116) and an associated Royal Arch Chapter (Alpha 62). As a whole they are a bunch of good Brothers and Companions, and I am proud to be associated with the Chapter, as its Secretary and only white member. But there are still those who unfortunately would prefer not to associate with them, despite the Lodge's history going back to 1871. (The Chapter was founded in 1972.) Fortunately, the number of those who display such bigotry is diminishing, and like you have said about your jurisdiction, neither is it officially tolerated anywhere in New Jersey Freemasonry.

    C.K. Leverett, RE Grand Secretary, Grand Royal Arch Chapter of New Jersey

  3. I don't know, Brother Leverett, if I can say it is diminishing here. It seems the memo announcing the end of the Civil War never reached some parts of Missouri.

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  6. I was asked to post this on behalf of a brother.

    "I will admit that I am a "racist" - I am in favor of the "HUMAN RACE"

    Everyone within the human race gets judged based on their actions and their character. None of the external characteristics.

    I live by the words of Dr. King. I judge someone on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

    Richard Jensen - PM"


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