HEAR EACH OTHER OUT
By Uriah J. Fields
Are you listening to each other long enough
to hear what each other is saying? It takes time
to say it and it takes time to hear it. Listen to
others as you listen to a friend.
Hear each other out is an idiom and expression that calls for a person to hear all of what someone has to say - to listen to someone until he or she is finished. The question is: "Why don't we hear each other out?" It maybe because we don't want our own views to be challenged or because we believe that they have something to say that may be more convincing or believable than what we are advocating or embracing. Whatever the rationale for not listening to each other must cease to be practiced if there is to be consensus and peace in our personal lives and in society.
The refusal to "hear each other out" accounts, to a large degree, for the turmoil involving police killings of 37-year old Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 5, 2016, 32-year old Philando Castile of Falon Heights, (St, Paul suburb) Minnesota, on July 6, and a sniper killing on July 7 of 5 police officers and wounding 7 other police officers and two civilians in Dallas, Texas, by Micah Xavier Johnson, a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan, and two days later the arrest of 120 persons, including Black Lives Matter leader DeRay Mckesson who were protesting the killing of black men by police officers.
I want to cite two incidents where "hear each other out" or the lack thereof that I experienced which impacted me in a way that made me a strong practitioner and advocator of "hear each other out." This is particularly important for the black community and white police officers in resolving the distrust many black people have of white police officers and white police officers' unnecessary killing and brutalizing unarmed black people. White supremacy which is alive in the American society means currently the same thing it meant in the past, that black people are to listen to what white people say and obey them without question. What happened in the first week of July as stated above makes it unmistakable clear that the white supremacy approach which may have worked in the past will not work in the future and that people who insist on business as usual are going to be disappointed.
The first of these two incidents occurred in Los Angeles where I was a resident. In March of 1991 Rodney King, apprehended by police officers for speeding, was brutally beaten by four police officers. The videotape of this incident made by George Holiday showed all four police officers engaged in beating King. It showed what Blacks had been saying for years, that police brutality of black people exists. Ninety percent of the people who watched this videotape on TV believed that these police officers should be punished.
On the mid-afternoon of April 29, 1992, a jury, located in Semi Valley, a white community, composed of 10 white people 1 Hispanic and 1 person of Philippine descent acquitted the police officers. About an hour latter latter angry protesters took to the streets. The first violent incident took place at Florence and Normandie streets in a South-Central Los Angeles' black neighborhood when Reginald Denny, a truck driver, was dragged from his truck and severely beaten.
Black leaders of Los Angeles, including ministers of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, of which at the time I was secretary, weeks earlier scheduled a community meeting to be held on the evening of the day the verdict is announced at the First African American Methodist Episcopal Church, Cecil "Chip" Murray, pastor. Based on past experiences of Blacks with police officers and the justice system, leaders' experiences of Blacks with police officers and the justice system, leaders believed the verdict the jury will render after more than a year after King was savagely beaten by police officers may not be just and that Blacks may react to it violently. Of course, what followed this verdict did provoke some Blacks to be violent. The consequences of the Rodney King Riot: 54 deaths, 2,000 injuries, 7,000 arrests and $1 billion property damage. The mass meeting that evening was attended by hundreds, many who had to remain outside the church. A large number of leaders and other people expressed their thoughts and feelings about the verdict and how the black community should respond to it. Mayor Tom Bradley, an African American was booed when he called for peaceful protest.
Near the end of the nearly three hour meeting a woman attempting to speak was denied the right to do so. The presiding person had stated that the meeting was ending, but this woman insisted that she be heard. After she refused to be silent, a number of people in the audience said, "Let her speak! Let us hear her!" then she was allowed to speak. At the close of the meeting news came that a nearby gas station located on Western Ave., at Adams Blvd., was on fire. Fires that first started that night would engulf much of the city and beyond the next three days.
The second "hear each other out" incident involved me as the protagonist. In 1952, five months after being discharged from the Army during the Korean War I left Chicago and my job as a postal worker at the Post Office and returned to my native state of Alabama. I enrolled at Alabama State College (now University) where I would receive a Bachelor degree and a Masters degree. In 1953, but not without difficulty, I became a registered voter in Montgomery, Alabama. There were only a few black people registered to vote in Montgomery County. The adjoining rural Wilcox County with a population that was 65 percent black did not have a single black voter. Blacks who attempted to vote were subjected to torture, being fired from their jobs,humiliated and intimidated by white people. In Alabama and most of the South there was only one political party, the Democratic/Dixiecrat Party. The South harbored a hatred for the Republican Party, the party of President Abraham Lincoln who they maintained freed the slaves.
During the decade I lived in Montgomery I was a student at Alabama State College, pastor of Bell Street Baptist Church for nine years and the original secretary of the Montgomery Improvement Association that was founded four days after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give her bus seat to a white person, to give structure to and direct the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Martin Luther King, Jr., pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, was elected president of the organization. Near the end of the 381-day long bus boycott that ended when the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on Montgomery buses was unconstitutional, rabid segregationists in their last-ditch effort to prevent desegregation of buses in Montgomery, on a single night in the wee hours of the morning bombed four churches and two parsonages. As Taylor Branch noted in his book, Parting the Waters, "Bell Street Baptist Church, suffered the most destruction on the night of the bombs." (p. 200). Bell Street Baptist Church and one other church had to be rebuilt.
In mid-1962, I resigned as pastor of the Bell Street Baptist Church, departed Montgomery and became a resident in Los Angeles where I remained for thirty-three years. Shortly after moving to California I registered to vote and joined the Republican Party. I was fed-up with being a Democrat.I also had a high regard for some Republicans, including Senator Jacob K. Javits of New York. Of course, this was before Southern Dixie-Democrats, beginning with Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, left the Democratic Party and became a Republican. Within a generation the majority of Southern representatives in Congress and State houses in the South would be white Republicans.
Soon after I became a registered voter in California I joined the black Republicans organization in Los Angeles. Celes King III, a Tuskegee Airman who became a Brigadier General in the California National Guard and I worked together to encourage Blacks to become Republicans. From time to time Celes gave speeches at the People United Freedom Forum (PUFF) which convened weekly on Sunday afternoons at the Mutuality Center for Creative Living of which I was a founder and the moderator for the forum. A variety of topics were discussed at PUFF that included politics and after the 1965 Watts Riot, police brutality was frequently discussed. Celes was a black Republican who contended that "Blacks should not have all their votes in the Democratic basket". This, he asserted would give Blacks more leverage to make demands and be respected.
In 1978, I was the Republican candidate in the 29th Congressional District of California for the House of Representatives. In that election, although not elected, I received 11,512 votes. Subsequently, I was a delegate and dad earned the right to appoint as my alternate James Goodson who had been the treasurer for my campaign to attend the California GOP Convention that convened in San Diego. A few weeks before the convention I submitted a resolution to the Resolution Committee that called on delegates to denounced President Jimmy Carter for terminating Andrew Young as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.Young's secret meeting with Zehdi Labib Terzi, a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), created controversy.
I met with the Resolution Committee in San Diego and presented my resolution which was not approved by committee members. As a matter of record, only one member of the committee, Attorney James Flournoy, a black man, argued in defense of my resolution. The Resolution Committee also received a resolution from a Jewish delegate that called for the United States to condemn Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and provide Israel with more military resources. The resolution was not approved by the Committee, I believe, for no other reason than the committee had not approved my resolution. I also sensed that the resolution offered by the Jewish delegate would later be brought to the floor for the delegates to vote on.
On the day that the delegates voted on the resolutions, U.S. House Representative Barry Morris Goldwater of California presided. After all the resolutions approved by the Resolutions Committee were voted on, Goldwater asked if there were other resolutions? A Jewish delegate came to the microphone that was placed near the dais and offered his resolution. He asked the convention to approve a resolution that called on the United States to condemn Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat for violence against the people of Israel and provide Israel with more military resources. The resolution was approved by the delegates.
I had positioned myself near the microphone and immediately after that aforementioned resolution was approved I spoke out loudly, "Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chairman." Goldwater ignored me as he listened to the chairman of the GOP Convention who, I believe, told him not to hear my resolution, said, "This ends the resolutions." I continued to speak out, "Mr chairman, I have a resolution." A number of delegates speaking out said, "Let him speak. Let us hear him." Goldwater relented, asked, "What is your resolution?" In my preacher voice I said, "Mr. Chairman and delegates I call upon the delegates of this Convention to denounce President Jimmy Carter for having terminated Andrew Young as Ambassador of the United State to the United Nations. I added, Young has been an excellent Ambassador for the United States to the United Nations and the president should reconsider his decision and restore Young to his position of Ambassador." Cowboy acting Goldwater then said, "All in favor of the resolution let it be known by voting yes." I only heard one, maybe two, persons say yes. Then Goldwater said "opposers say no." There was a thunderous no voiced, probably by all but a handful of the nearly 1,500 delegates. I demonstrated what it means, first of all, to have a seat at the table, and second, to be heard. Let me add, earlier that morning before the meeting began, I and a friend placed copies of my resolution in several hundred seats that would later be occupied by delegates.
"Hear each other out"." The aforementioned two incidents indicate how significant it is for each other to be heard out. People will find a way to be heard when not granted the opportunity to be heard fairly and equally that might be destructive. Why not "hear each other out?" in the same arena or on the same stage? This is my plea "Hear each other out." You need to hear what I have to say and I need to hear what you have to say.
There is something we can learn from an experience of Apostle Paul who had been accused by religious authorities and their subjects of committing crimes which they said warranted him being put to death:
Then King Agrippa said to Paul, 'You have
permission to speak for yourself. So Paul motioned
with his hands and began: King Agrippa I consider
myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make
my defense against all the accusations of the Jews. ...
Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.(Acts 26:1-2)
The King rose and with the governor and...they
said, "This man is not doing anything that deserves
death or imprisonment." (Acts 26:30)
Copyright 2016 by Uriah J. Fields