Friday, December 28, 2012

The Moral Irregularity of Florida's Mainstream Lodges

Call me naïve, or maybe just uninformed. but having had the good fortune of having first sought light in European (not European style) Freemasonry, I have never run smack up against the blatant bigotry and ugliness that is Southern White Freemasonry. My contact with brethren of Prince Hall and other African American Masonic obediences has always been characterized as of the most positive nature.

Frankly, with the exception of a few mainstream brethren I have met online, I have always been more impressed by the enthusiasm, sincerity, and depth of understanding I have experienced among African American masons, especially the elder brethren I've met. We've shared some spirited conversations and I have always come away feeling better for the encounter. My experiences may represent an unscientific sampling, but the outcome of these interactions has been an abiding sense that there is greater enthusiasm and commitment to living their vows than among any other Masonic group I have met in the US. 

As a result of these experiences and my path of entry into Freemasonry, I have never had occasion to come face to face with the details of just how systematically the Southern Lodge uses shiftiness, duplicity, dishonest... need I go on, in maintaining a racist system of apartheid in their Freemasonry. 

Like I said, call me naïve. 

Today, on his blog post on The Bee Hive Bro. Frederick Milliken describes the insidious methods employed by Florida's masons to maintain a totally un-masonic apartheid within their lodges:

"[I]t is worthy to note that other gross violations of Masonic conduct by Florida Brethren have existed for years without any disapproval or reprimand outside the Sunshine State.
For years I have heard of stories of how African American Mainstream Masons from New York (and elsewhere) who were snowbirds spending 6 months of their year in Florida were treated. The Beehive has recently consulted with three Florida Past Masters to verify this practice and ask if it was still in force.
When a “Black Man” appeared at a Florida Lodge for visitation carrying fully accredited papers and knowledge from another Mainstream jurisdiction, the Florida Lodge would refuse to open or if already opened would immediately close. The “Black Man” would then be admitted inside the Lodge room where some explanation for this procedure would be offered by the Master, such as the candidate failed to show up tonight so we have cancelled the degree work. Then a Past Master would rise to give a Masonic education lecture. The Lodge remained closed as long as the “Black Man” remained in the building. The information I have received and verified through three Florida Past Masters is still going on and is the unwritten policy of the Grand Lodge that no man of color ever be allowed into a Florida Mainstream tyled Communication, certified Mainstream Master Mason or not."
What is worse, if such were possible, is the observation that followed:
"To the best knowledge of this author no Grand Lodge or Grand Master in the rest of the American jurisdictions has ever publicly scolded or criticized this Florida practice even though it is widely known to be going on."

If I ever realized that was happening in a lodge I was attending, you can be sure I would make a very big scene on my way out, and I would not be back. Some might view that as unbecoming behavior for a Mason, but trust me, there are limits to working within the system. 

Agreed, it is unconscionable that Florida's anything but Grand Master George Aladro decided to ban masons who do not adhere to his narrow vision of religious acceptability. However, that pales in comparison with what is undoubtedly a generations long practice of the ugliest and most thoroughly un-masonic character.

Returning again to that observation that to the best of Bro. Milliken's knowledge no other mainstream jurisdiction has every publicly criticized Florida for this practice; this is indefensible. Period. There is no need to qualify it in any way. The entire system needs to be called to task for this. It all has to stop.

The fact that white Freemasons will object to religious bigotry and not to racism, must not go uncorrected.  In fact, if anything good comes from this it will be that all such behavior is brought to an end. There is an undeniable gap in White awareness about racism around them. Some of that is racist, some of it is not. However, white Masons need to recognize you don't get to ignore one problem and focus on another. It's all or none. Societal change moves at a glacial pace, unless we force it. We need to force this.

I believe it is necessary, if the rest of mainstream Freemasonry is to maintain any credibility at all, for those leaders to use all sanctions available to them, including suspending recognition to force Florida to change. If they don't do this, the rank and file should rebel. It is the only course of action that is masonic and ethical. If other mainstream lodges do nothing, they are as guilty as Florida. Period, There is no need to quality it in any way.

There is a little bit of rebellion going on, but it needs a great deal of strengthening. Visit as Bro. Milliken recommends, and get involved.

And they have the audacity to call anyone else "irregular?"


MP said...

Returning again to that observation that to the best of Bro. Milliken's knowledge no other mainstream jurisdiction has every publicly criticized Florida for this practice; this is indefensible. Period. There is no need to qualify it in any way.

The other GLs will say, like Br. Gerald Edgar says, that there's no proof, and all of these anonymous accusations are spurious - to use a comment internet phrase:
pics or it didn't happen.

E C Ballard ஃ said...

Perhaps they will. However, you and I both know that such events have occurred and doubtlessly innumerable times! With a system so corrupt that it attempts systematically to cover its own tracks, the only option is to raise a stink about it.

Kyle Myers said...

Some of us in the south would like to see other Grand Lodges withdraw Amity from some of our Grand Lodges. While we do what we can within, you can bring pressure from without. Things are changing - some locations faster than others - but perhaps not as promptly as we may wish for. Pressure from without might be just the catalyst we need to make a quickening. Can you imagine a day when virtually every Grand Lodge recognizes Prince Hall & the GOdF, but they all withdraw from Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida? It is a day worth imagining.

Frederic L. Milliken said...

I remember receiving comments on the story that I wrote that I was full of baloney that they had found a Black Mainstream Mason in Florida. Well Georgia has one also and Texas at least a half a dozen. Most of these instances are in "liberal" pockets of acceptance often in University towns. But the occasional token Mainstream Masonic Black doesn't really change the story. If anything it proves how wrong Confederate Masonry is.

Frederic L. Milliken

E C Ballard ஃ said...

Dear Bro. Fred,

If in a state the size of Florida with the population of blacks and latinos that they have there, someone found a black mainstream mason, that is condemnation enough. In all that state you find A black mainstream mason? Really. You could not be more spot on, brother Fred.