Don Lemon Versus Bishop Eddie Long; My Feelings Lie with The Survivors
This was another big shock; I read about it at Jack and Jill Politics Saturday. Lemon’s admission took a lot of courage. If more brothers would come out and recognize and say this, the concept of black masculinity would begin to revise and change. And the abusers, pedophiles and predators among us would be exposed for who and what they are. All the secrecy, self-hatred, shame, self-medicating, grief, and other negative behaviors that poison black men’s lives would be eased; not only with the victim, but with other survivors.
Lemon had just played a soundbite from the lawyer of one of Long’s accusers about how the bishop allegedly got close to one of the young men in his church.
Let me tell you what got my attention about this and I have never admitted this on television. I’m a victim of a pedophile when I was a kid. Someone who was much older than me.
Lemon’s admission led to an audible gasp from one of his guests. “I’ve never admitted that on television and I never told my mom until I was 30 years old,” Lemon said later in the segment. “Especially African-American men don’t want to talk about those things.”
Well, we all need to talk about these things. Everywhere. And I can well believe why black men don’t want to talk about it.
Only gay males are supposedly raped or sexually abused. Sissies. Feminized men. This is a myth. Any man and any boy can be raped no matter what their sexual bent. Rape is always physical and emotional assault without the consent of the subject.
Nobody ever thinks that rape and abuse can be visited on a boy or man, but it does happen, and possibly more times than we think. Of course, the same rationale is given with a woman or girl who has been raped: s/he asked for it; s/he had it coming to them. This is not just a women’s issue, or a children’s issue. It’s a human issue.
African American boys and men have been raped, all the way from slavery to the present. Not only by white men and boys, who used it as a form of control, subjugation and degradation, but by other black males, particularly in jails and prisons. As a result, African American males have been socialized almost to the point of obsession over the importance and protection of their masculinity. Anyone or anything that challenges that is a threat. There is no middle ground. And what does that say about the mental and spiritual health of black males and of black heterosexual relationships?
This hip-hop generation also celebrates and thrives on the expression of hyper-masculinity and misogyny. If anything, this explains why some hip-hop artists have gravitated to Bishop Eddie Long’s ministry. It emphasized lost and retrieved maleness to the same degree, especially for boys and young men who were raised without their fathers or male models, in a female-headed, one-parent family.
I thought later about what may have happened to these youth after they left Long and New Birth. It must have been like a fall from grace. Like being kicked out of Eden. From having purpose to being aimless. They were probably living a life of relative ease that eventually came to disturb and anger them, and then it was gone. It was over.
The cars may not have been in their names. If all they had were New Birth jobs, they had to go out and get real jobs in this Great Recession economy. They may have lived on the money they had left until it ran out. They were on their own. All alone on their own.
One, Spencer LeGrande, went back home to Charlotte, N.C.
and apparently said nothing. Probably not even to and did tell his mother, who was a founding member of the Charlotte branch of Long’s church in Lithonia, an ex-girlfriend, and other close friends. Or worse: perhaps she actually ignored him when he brought it up. It’s happened. It makes me think that the theft at the bishop’s office perpetrated by Maurice Robinson, another ex-“Spiritual Son,” along with another young man not connected with New Birth, was more an extension of that simmering rage at Long at having to leave that ultimately dysfunctional but once perfect New Birth family as well as being alone with the abuse.
More to the point, the emotional fallout over what happened probably began to hit home for them. I’m sure that they asked themselves constantly, what am I? Who am I? Animal, vegetable or mineral? They probably questioned their own manhood as well. Because, the prevalent (erroneous) view is that a man who is penetrated or sexually used is not supposed to be a man. If young women found them attractive, they probably distanced themselves in shame, anger and doubt. While some may continue to date women, the abuse may begin to intrude in their relationships, even with parents. It’s commonly known as PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder.
So, these young men aren’t “tricks.” Nor are they stupid. There is such a thing as chronological age versus mental age. You’ve heard of “young acting” people, haven’t you? They may have been 16, 17, and 18 when the abuse began, but they may have been a couple of years younger mentally. In other words, they were still children. And the “consent” that they may have “given” to Long may have been coerced, especially since they were groomed from an early age–through his favoritism, gifts, and trips–to acquiesce and defer to him. Remember, they were once devout Christian young men. They believed, and were led astray within a closed religious community.
Contrary to popular belief, it appears that these young men are not gay. And it is known that most sex abusers of males are heterosexual, not homosexual. If anything, Maurice Robinson, 20, Anthony Flagg, 21, Jamal Parris, 23, and Spencer LeGrande, 22, deserve therapeutic as well as monetary remuneration for as long as it takes for them to get over this experience.
And ask yourselves this question: why in the world would these young men come forward publicly, with the exposure of their names to the entire country, to file a sexual abuse suit against a powerful public figure like Eddie Long, knowing the contempt and derision that they would face in their own families as well as their own community for years? If this is how someone gets money for free, I wouldn’t recommend it. What they–like Don Lemon–did was brave, but it is not over yet.
The transcript of Bishop Long’s 8:00 a.m. sermon is here. (As you well know, Long did not resign today but it does not mean that he didn’t think about it during those five days, or may not in the near future. This too is not over.) Two views of Long’s sermon:
Long made it clear Sunday he will fight to keep his reputation.
“I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man, but I am not the man being portrayed on television,” Long said Sunday morning from the pulpit of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. “That’s not me. That is not me.”
[Crisis communications expert Stephen] Brown found that comment potentially revealing.
“It seems to be setting the stage that there’s something you may not like that’s going to come out,” said Brown, senior vice president of media strategy at Manning, Selvage & Lee.
What also gets me is that in appearing twice that Sunday, New Birth got twice the payday, possibly even more than usual. And I saw
didn’t in the video the presence of the Reverend Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., also long rumored to have a closet of her own. This is one time I wish I could be a mind reader to know what she really thinks, and those in his inner circle.
I find it significant that on the advice of his counsel, Bishop Long also didn’t go into specifics, that is (1) deny the validity of the young men’s charges and (2) deny that he was untrue to his marriage vows while he could have been running a male bordello right under the eyes of his second wife, Vanessa, who was there doing a Tammy Wynette at the speech. He may be saving it all for the courtroom, but the omission caught everyone’s attention. Saying that he was not a perfect man and that he was not the same guy being depicted on television news was not helpful, as Dr. Boyce Watkins over at Black Voices interpreted (with Long’s statements in bold):
“There have been allegations and attacks made on me. I have never in my life portrayed myself as a perfect man. But I am NOT the man that’s being portrayed on the television. That’s not me.”
This statement was incredibly vague, implying that he may or may not be guilty of the allegations against him. To say that you are not the man being portrayed in the media doesn’t mean you’re innocent. It simply means that you may be slightly different from the way the accusers are describing you. Nearly any guilty or innocent person can make this statement.
It also means that the image of himself in his own mind that he has cultivated with his flock and with the media has come apart. Nobody likes to see themselves as they truly are and what their actions have truly come to meant to those who have been harmed by them. He can’t get a grip.
“I’ve been accused, I’m under attack….but this thing, I’m gonna fight.”
This statement means that the situation is far from over. I expect an interesting battle behind the scenes as attorneys squabble over the amount of the settlement. I would be surprised to see this get as far as a jury trial, especially if other accusers continue to step forward. This may open up a Tiger Woods-like can of worms for Bishop Eddie Long in the event that he actually has engaged in wrong-doing.
If Bishop Long settles with these young men without a jury trial, it will still have a devastating effect on his reputation. Of course, it will confirm in some people’s minds that the young men were mercenary, that they had succeeded in shaking the wealthy Long down for dollar bills. However, a settlement would also leave the distinct impression in everyone’s mind that the stories that the young men told were true and factual. They may be kept from saying anything further against the bishop, but the residual feeling in the black community would be that Long had been up to no good with impressionable black youth, the very segment of the community that he had aimed for in his ministry.
A “Spiritual Son” from Memphis who now runs his own church, Bill Anderson, stepped forward to support his mentor in faith. I’m sure there will be others who will do the same in the next few days, but Anderson offered no other information about his treatment as a Spiritual Son that differed from that of the complainants. Maybe he’s waiting for the trial to appear as a material witness.
“My heart goes out to my Dad and whatever he needs from me, I’ll be there for him,” said Apostle Bill Anderson, pastor of Birth Church, Memphis.
Memphis’ Apostle Bill Anderson calls Bishop Eddie Long his mentor and spiritual father. He even wears a ring with the Georgia pastor’s church symbol on it.
I would have to conclude that Eddie Long is capable of showing several faces: to his wife and family, to his acolytes, to his inner circle, to his parishioners, and ultimately, to his lovers. These are all aspects of Eddie Long, and it must have been a thrilling ride to be that many-sided kind of man, the center of all activity and attention before the complaints were filed. He’s thrived on it; it’s made him the charismatic preacher that he is.
I’ve learned, however, that there are deals with the devil–that is, the dark side–that one makes to become such a man or a woman. There is always a price to be paid if the deals don’t balance out. Eddie Long must be asking himself right now, was it all worth it?