- Matthew Botts, Past Master of Diversity Lodge 330 under the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia
- Gabriel Evans, Fidelity Lodge #10 under the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of California
- Joe Gonzalez, Senior Grand Warden of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Minnesota
- Charles M. Harper, Sr., Past Master of Pleiades Lodge 478 under the Grand Lodge of Illinois and the author of a book pertinent to the subject, Freemasonry in Black and White.
After All, It's 2016
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR
The Masonic Roundtable, a weekly discussion podcast/videocast about Freemasonry, has, in my opinion, become an important voice for our fraternity. The show's panel consists of Jon T. Ruark, Jason Richards, Juan Sepulveda, Nick Johnson and Midnight Freemasons Editor Robert Johnson. Each week the show covers a single topic in depth, includes some Masonic news and current events and usually provides a little fun along the way.1 The Brothers do not shy away from controversial topics and, to celebrate their 100th show, picked what might be considered the granddaddy of them all: Racism in the Craft.
Additional panel members that evening consisted of the following Brothers:
A few times during the show, a panelist would, referring to the progress or lack thereof in race relations, say something like, "Hey, after all, it's 2016."
At one point, WB Robert Johnson asked, "It's interesting that you guys have said, 'it's 2016.' I know what you mean, but are we just making an excuse for how bad things were in the past? Why is 2016 an excuse? It isn't."
It's a good question; and Robert is correct — it's not an excuse and shouldn't be.
Had I been on that panel I could not have stopped myself from jumping in at that point.
I was in college during what many would call the "Civil Rights Era" — the late '60s, early '70s. I supported the movement. I went to rallies and events, even demonstrations; never anything violent. Right out of college I worked for the Urban League. Those "bad things in the past" Robert spoke of weren't in the past — They were current events. Remember how intense news coverage was in 2015 over the events in Ferguson, Missouri? Back then, it was just as intense and far more common; and in the wake of those events, including Dr. King's death, the local firebombing of our town's only African American store, and much more, what do you suppose they said?
"Things like this shouldn't be happening. After all, it's 1968."
Back in those days, 2016 was "the future" just as much as today we would look at 2060 as "the future." Had someone interviewed me about the Civil Rights Movement when I was in college what would I have said about the prognosis for "the future?"
To generalize, I would have said we would fix the problem — after all we had nearly a half century to work on it before "the future" got here. But we didn't fix it, did we?
So we say, "after all it's 2016," to imply by now we should have fixed the problem. Also we say it to imply we are more enlightened than those old guys that came before us. The former is true. In my opinion, not so much the latter.
Yes, there has been progress but not enough, as evidenced by last year's unrest. What's more, on a personal level, last year I resigned from one of my Lodges over a racist incident.2 My Grand Lodge does not condone racism in any way,3 but it's not uncommon to hear racist remarks in our Lodges.
It's 2016, and from the perspective of someone who has been there since the Civil Rights Era, we didn't get the job done. Let's just hope that in "the future" they still aren't saying, "Hey, after all, it's 2060."
1The full podcast and more information about the hosts is available on the Masonic Roundtable's website at http://www.themasonicroundtable.com.
2Midnight Freemasons Article A Sad Thing http://www.midnightfreemasons.org/2015/01/a-sad-thing.html.
3Midnight Freemasons Article The Incident http://www.midnightfreemasons.org/2013/02/the-incident.html.
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 & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.