Alex had been attentive but quiet the entire time. “I’ve been here a long time, and I know what the mission says. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anybody over the years say that it was to be taken literally. Our funders wouldn’t believe we could do this, and they might not believe we should even try. They’d pull out, and where would that leave the clients that depend on us?”
“At some point, Alex, well-meaning Negroes must have said to Ida Wells, ‘Look, you’re just making more trouble for us. You’ll never change white people. What you’re after is impossible, and you’re just going to get yourself killed, and get more of us hurt or killed in the process.’ You could almost write the script yourselves. I understand your point, Alex. Maybe its not for WIAR to do at all. Maybe WIAR couldn’t risk so much as partnering with an organization that would attempt such a thing. But it is embedded in the mission statement, the donors know what it says. Whether it’s in the mission statement or not, though, does that preclude believing that its at least possible?”
“It would be less than honest of me,” Alex shared, “if I portrayed that belief to my clients. It’s a false hope, and doing that won’t help them.“
“I’m not a psychologist, Alex. You’re the counselor here, and I can’t argue with that. I just have to wonder how we rebuild survivors, make them whole again, facilitate true healing if we also imply – even tacitly and by omission – that their children and grandchildren’s great grandchildren are more than likely going to have to suffer the same fate, living without hope of this crime ever going the way of lynching. Unquestionably, most everyone today would say they’re against rape and sexual assault. That’s perhaps in contrast to lynching in the early parts of the last century when many might have just referred to it as merely an unfortunate fact of American life. But even at that, by the 1950s, after significant social and political pressures had been brought to bear over time, America began to experience full years devoid of any reported lynching at all.”
Alex countered, “But the numbers are far higher for rape than they ever were for lynching. Even you would have to admit that there’s no comparison. How is that realistic?”
“In terms of the sheer numbers, you’re absolutely right, Alex. While there is no comparison, you’d no doubt agree that if rape statistics decreased to numbers mirroring those of lynching even in the 1900s, it would still be too many. But if the Negro would have exclusively taken the same path as society has taken with rape, then Negroes would have primarily focused on getting funding for 1-800-LYNCHED numbers and programs offering counseling and support for the survivors of lynching victims after-the-fact, instead of pursuing an end to the crime itself. Wouldn’t you think the sheer numbers of rape and sexual assault victims provides the rationale for seeking eradication? I know we use the term “survivor,” but I used the term “victims” because not everyone survives it. Where is America’s conscience on rape?”
“That’s a man’s point of view,” said Gloria. “You think you can fix everything with duct tape and a hammer; but that’s the talk of power and positioning. What are you suggesting — that women go back to the sixties and hold old style freedom marches and protests?”
“Interesting you should ask it that way, Gloria. First, let’s not forget, that is exactly what the founders of this organization did thirty years ago to get this organization started. Importantly, women do lack “old-style” freedoms, like denial of a Constitutional freedom of movement in this country as a direct effect of the constant threat of sexual assault and rape at the core of it. For example, I’ve been in many a late-night corporate meeting when even powerful woman Vice Presidents were told by their male subordinates they couldn’t remain in their offices alone after the meeting without at least one male present, security notified, and an escort to their car. The social paradigm is out of kilter on this, not only in matters of upward mobility, pay equity or physical safety, but in other rights that men take for granted. In the absence of eradication of rape, what other equalities, rights and freedoms must necessarily remain curtailed as a natural consequence of it?”
Bridgette leaned forward, stood up and said, “Okay, people. We’re obviously not going to get to the values statement this evening. We did however, get a lot more to think about than we ever intended when we walked in here. Rob, where do go from here?”
“Thanks, Bridgette; and thanks to everyone for the spirited discussion and thoughtful input. I’d ask that everyone to go home, mull over what we talked about. Tomorrow by close of business, please, hand write a single sheet summary of your thoughts on two things. On one side write a summary of your thoughts about the mission statement and what you believe it means, and what, if anything should be done with it. The second side should be a brief paragraph on WIAR’s current values that will carry it toward its goals as implied by the mission of the organization. Turn them in to Bridgette, and we’ll go from there.”
There was a lot of adrenaline in the group as we bid each other goodnight. Some of it was positive, hopeful about a new level of discourse on the organization’s purpose for existing. The preponderance, I suspected, was weighted toward trepidation over the decision to bring men onto the Board of Directors, and over the future of the organization with leadership under the influence of testosterone poisoning.
By the middle of the next morning, the entire organization was abuzz. Not just a man, but a madman had apparently entered the ranks of WIAR leadership. Some were perplexed, others angered over the rumored substance of the discussion. For some, the interpretation was that the organization wasn’t doing enough, and that the entire field was ignoring a key aspect of its responsibility to its clients. Others pondered the possibility of a narrowed focus, perhaps dropping the advocacy role altogether, hunkering down to focus purely on crisis intervention and counseling, clearly what the organization did best.
Copyright © Robert D. Jones 2013, All Rights Reserved
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