“The caught and the uncaught” was the title of a sermon preached in 1982 by Rev. Jasper Williams, a legendary Atlanta preacher. In this sermon Williams preached that there were two kinds of church people: The caught and the uncaught.
“The only thing that separated the uncaught from the caught is that the uncaught had not been caught yet,” he preached.
He explained in the sermon that santimonious people should be careful because in a twinkling of an eye they could slip into the caught category.
In 1977 Andrew Young was the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. He was the shining example of what a black person could achieve in America at that time. He had been appointed to that position by President Jimmy Carter. Young had earned a reputation as a bridge builder from his days as a top lieutenant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
On December 14, 1977, Young met in a Manhattan apartment with the United Nations Observer for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). At that time the PLO was not recognized by the US. There were no diplomatic relations between them.
Young had committed the unpardonable sin of violating US protocol when meeting with the PLO. He knew that he was violating the law. Young also knew it was futile to attempt to resolve the conflict in the Middle East without bringing the Palestinians to the bargaining table with their Israeli adversaries. So he risked violating American law in his efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.
This was a noble act. A workable accord was reached. Then word of the meeting leaked. He was caught.
President Carter was forced to fire Young. All of the goodwill that had been brokered in that meeting in the Manhattan apartment was swept away because it was reached by an Ambassador with unclean hands. He had moved from blessed and uncaught to caught and damned.
In 1977, Andrew Young was the right man at the right time to forge a peace settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. This was not to be. The US blew its window of opportunity because Young had not been authorized by his government to engage in peace talks with the Palestinians.
Nine years later, the US decided that it was not such a damnable sin and initiated contact with the PLO.
I reflect upon this because I just received word Rachel Dolezal has decided to resign from her post with the Spokane, Washington NAACP. From all indications, Dolezal was committed to the goals of the NAACP and grew the Spokane Branch in the five months she was the organization’s president. But she fell from grace once it was learned she was not a fair-skinned sister, but a Caucasian woman who was pretending to be black.
It is not clear from news accounts if she ever told any officials at the Spokane NAACP that she was black or if her peers in the organization merely assumed that she was because of the apparent melanin in her skin, and the hair extensions that she wore. It does not matter much at this point, because when the story broke it was assumed that she lied about her race. It was even assumed that she lied about her race while a student at Howard University in spite of the fact while at Howard she sued the university for racial discrimination because of her white ethnicity.
Many in my Facebook newsfeed have opined that if Dolezal would lie about her ethnicity she would lie about anything. In the 1950s Howard Griffin, born to two Caucasians, lied about his race for a solid year. He traveled the country looking like a black man and found that everywhere he went he was treated like black men were treated in this country in the 1950s; and not like the white man he actually was.
Griffin later wrote a book about his experiences, Black Like Me. which helped to explain racism in this country to white people who had not bothered to be concerned with non-white people. He even appeared around a few friends who knew him as a white man. They did not recognize him. He was deceptive and caused his friends to act out their true feelings when encountering a person they presumed was black.
It can not be denied that Griffin’s ruse was an excellent object lesson in race relations. When my son was in a private high school, he received racial threats from one of his baseball teammates. Part of that young man’s punishment was to read Griffin’s book and to do a book report before he was once again in good standing with the campus community. This was some 40 years after Griffin had given whites an inside look at race from the eyes of a black person.
It does not yet appear the good that will come forth from Dolezal’s deception, but good will surely follow. God knows white people need to take President Obama seriously in his quest for an honest conversation about race in America. Also, the comments I have seen on my social media newsfeed from black people are from one extreme to another and suggest we all need more maturity on racial matters.
Well, what does this all have to do with Andrew Young and the PLO, or with Rachel Dolezal?
When Young left office it created a vacuum. There was no one to take his place, or at least, no one who had his commitment to peace and gift for resolving disputes. Certainly none of his critics on the right who argued that it was the God awfullest thing that he could have done. Young had to go because he was deceptive, he met with the PLO without telling his President. He knew if he did not attempt to broker a peace with the PLO no one else would try.
I am willing to bet that if you put all the good deeds of all of Dolezal’s critics throughout the country together, they would not equal the work for the advancement of colored people that Dolezal has put in since she committed her first deceptive act concealing and denying her biological birth.
When Dolezal was uncaught, she could do no wrong in advancing the goals of the NAACP. Very few people knew she existed or knew of her work for social justice. When she was caught in a lie, she became an overnight sensation. And overnight, her work for social justice ceased.
Who among her critics will pick up her mantle? Who is willing to try to advance the cause of colored people in the 21st century? How many of the pied-pipers shouting “she is a liar and must go” are willing to volunteer an hour a week at their local civil rights office?
Obviously, this is a rhetorical question. One which you can answer by showing up at your local NAACP, National Urban League or Southern Christian Leadership Conference, just to name a few organizations, to help them wage the fight that a white girl from Montana was proud to fight before she moved from the uncaught to the caught. The Almighty knows that these organization are willing to accept whoever shows up and and say they are willing to work. Perhaps it is time for authentic white and black people to give a little time to help these organization advance justice and equality for colored people.
Harold Michael Harvey, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org