Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Remember the book "Black Like Me"?

In 1961, John Griffin underwent treatments to darken his skin, so that he could pass as a black man, travelling through the American south on buses.  The civil rights movement was strong and Griffin wanted to 'walk a mile in their shoes'.
He did this so well, that he realized that "he had tampered with the mystery of existence and had lost the sense of his own being".
When the experiment was finished he was a hero to some, but also received threats to such an extent that he moved to Mexico for a number of years.
In his well-written book, he clearly showed the difficulty of finding Negro cafes or Negro washrooms, or anywhere that a black person could sit and rest.
The book had a profound affect. Black men had been trying to be like the white men to be successful.  But they learned that they needed to take control and celebrate their heritage.  The white men needed to step back so that the black men could show their ability to work on solutions for integration.
I had picked up this book in a second-hand book store, remembering that I had read it many years previous and wanting to read it again.
        Reading allows everyone to walk a mile in another's shoes.  Isn't that great?

Recently, I read another experience of walking in other shoes.

"The Cross in the Closet"by Timothy Kurek
Tim Kurek was raised in a Southern Baptist church in Nashville.  He was taught that God did not like gays and they could not go to heaven.  When a friend came out as being gay, Tim was shocked to see how diffiult it was for his friend.
Just like the book "Black Like Me", Tim decided to proclaim himself as a gay man for one year – despite being straight – to see what gay men and women experience in our society and try to better
understand them and himself.
I had some ethical problems with that.  Even his family did not know and it seems so wrong to put your family through that just for the experience.
His first experience with the gay community showed them to be loving and accepting, but also beer-drinking, sex-obsessed, porn-watchers.  He asked one fellow to be his 'boyfriend' to teach him the behaviour and chase off the other guys.
His alter-ego, the 'Pharisee' was always offering the type of comment that Tim would have had in the past.
It seems to me that he didn't experience a real cross-section of the gay community.  There is no mention of the family-oriented, hard-working, ordinary, gay men and women.  Thus, his problem:
"Will I ever be able to reconcile my faith in God and the homosexual orientation?"
A friend reminded me that there wouldn't be a lot of places that Tim could experience the gay community.  They were not welcome in most places.  Gay bars may be one of the only places where they could be accepted for who they are.
At times it seems that he went from hating gays to hating Christians.
But, in the end, he tries to accept everyone where they are, although he is still angry that the mainstreams churches don't support the AIDS walk.

                     But, this is the one book that was transforming for me!

Mel White was an American clergyman.  After writing for the Christian right for many years, he came out as a gay man in 1994.  His story is amazing and was life-changing for me.

Mel and his son, filmmaker Mike White, had the unusual opportunity to appear as a team on two seasons of the Amazing Race.

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