Greetings dear readers!
Trouble in Black paradise truly impacts all “rainbow” humanity.
White Civil Rights giant George Houser died last Wednesday, August 19th at age 99 and I saw zilch coverage on TV. I heard it locally Friday on KPFA FM radio news—the only way I found out.
TV broadcast silence around this astounding and invested man speaks volumes about the extreme censorship (still ushering along that “white politic” worship) gripping standard dominant media, especially with regards to bottling up groundbreaking progressive whites. Here, you can see its selective pulse clearly in action.
When Civil Rights icon Julian Bond at age 75 died just earlier on August 15th, national networks blared and the event made global news—as well it should have.
Bond, in 1960 a college student, answered the youth’s “call to action” from Ella Baker. He cofounded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) with the likes of John Lewis (future U.S. House Rep from Georgia), Stokely Carmichael, Diane Nash and Marion Barry (future D.C. Mayor).
Among other things SNCC organized the 1961 Freedom Rides. Bus loads of folks risked their lives on an excursion to challenge Southern racial segregation. KKK backed whites there burned buses and bloodied the daring interracial protesters—scenes that also blared across national TV screens where I, as a 6-year-old, sat glued. These youth literally salvaged the next phase of “the movement.”
An August 20th B.A.R. article honors Bond and his outspoken advocacy for gay rights. We shall see if gay rag protégés break cozy rank with standard straight media to ever recognize Houser.
There’s good reason Houser finds prominent feature in the pages of my book Trouble In Black Paradise—among a cadre of heroes left out of standard dominant media (but specifically chronicled for you by me).
Being the heir apparent of such visionaries you, the general public, should actually know who took those monumental risks joining diverse ranks on your behalf—the trailblazers you’ve been intentionally kept from.
Born the son of missionaries in 1916 Houser’s graduate work found him at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, where he chaired its Social Action Committee. In a separate vein the white humanist giant A. J. Muste then headed the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR)—a socialist, Christian based “pacifist” group, aligned with the Black led Civil Rights movement.
A. Phillip Randolph, Black business professional and heavyweight “suffrage” activist guided the “movement’s” helm at the time. Randolph had in 1925 founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first Black labor union, gaining better conditions from the Pullman Railroad Co.
At 22 Houser joined FOR in 1938. Protesting the mandatory military draft with classmates in 1940 got him a year stint in Danbury, Connecticut’s federal prison. After release he was formally ordained at Chicago’s Theological Seminary.
Soon destiny had the now Rev. Houser meeting a man at FOR who would become a major, lifelong co organizer: it was Bayard Rustin, who eventually was the invaluable advisor to every major Civil Rights leader of his time—nationally and abroad. Young Rustin, who had been Randolph’s right-hand-man (as he would be later for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) was the newly appointed FOR Secretary for Student and General Affairs.
At the time Rustin was also something else: openly and unapologetically gay. I call him the pioneer coalition’s Lavender Lion.
Rustin and Houser met 2 other emerging FOR youth: the white activist Bernice Fisher and James Farmer (the man later becoming one of the “Big Four” Black Civil Rights leaders of the 1960’s).
In 1942 after Houser and Farmer were refused service at a Chicago Restaurant, the 4 young stalwarts (independently of FOR) formed the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). The new pacifist group was centered on both the philosophy of Henry David Thoreau and the “non violent” resistant techniques developed by India’s Mohandas Gandhi—which Southern resistance would truly put to the test.
Houser and Rustin intentionally got themselves arrested in 1944 protesting WW II. Houser got a year and a day, but Rustin was shocked by a severely biased lesson: he got 3 years in Ashland, Kentucky’s penitentiary.
Upon release Rustin planned a groundbreaking FOR campaign with Houser. The 1947 Journey of Reconciliation took a 16 man team (Black and white divided) into the south for 2 weeks by bus to challenge interstate segregation travel laws—which should have ended with the 1946 Irene Morgan v Virginia Supreme Court decision.
One must pause to reflect here: this was 14 years before SNCC’s youth led Freedom Rides. Black leadership at the time cringed and the Walter White led NAACP reluctantly gave approval (while emphatically disapproving of “Gandhi’s tactics”). Participants were arrested in 4 cities (and from one literally had to escape with their lives).
The NAACP though, reneged on backing them with legal support, advising that the defendants just serve their time. Rustin was sentenced to 30 days on a chain gang. But this time a “reverse lesson” was dealt: the whites got 90 days to make a point about disloyalty to their race.
In 1952 Rustin and Houser founded Americans for South African Resistance, the very first anti apartheid group in the U.S. Houser became executive director of the American Committee on Africa in 1955—a position held until he retired.
Soon of course Rustin was recommended to advise Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and rallying Blacks who planned the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott—kicking off in 1955 after a now historic Rosa Parks defied segregation bus laws. Rustin could finally institute CORE’s nonviolent strategy into a massive platform, introducing the heart of Civil Rights protesters to Gandhi’s tactics.
Houser survived Rustin, who died in 1987 at age 75, but kept his eyes on the humanitarian prize. He is believed to have been the last surviving participant of that dangerously pioneering Journey of Reconciliation.
In 2010 South African President Jacob Zuma honored Houser with the Oliver R. Tambo award—named for the former ANC president who was exiled for decades.
Today’s U.S. TV broadcasters flaunt irony, seemingly following suit with old segregationists. A message directly to active whites currently aligned with Blacks in this common struggle (or watching on the side) revives that more stringent “reverse lesson”:
Sensationalized coverage of Black action takers (or for super iconic Afro trailblazers who are suddenly deceased)—practically guaranteed. But no coverage of hugely inspiring, myth shattering whites invested in Civil Rights legacy—not for you!
To do so outlets would have to revisit the clear, ugly trail braved by whites set arm-in-arm with the central rainbow targets of white supremacy, again shattering the myth that all whites are homogenously—and hopelessly—disconnected.
I guess the attitude is that more whites might get the wrong “ideas.”
Or maybe an outlet like CNN, so self-praising about their “coverage fairness,” will rightfully give Houser’s legacy a feature in airplay after all.
But with the broadcast “white out” our media strictly imposes on mega MIT intellectual (and foreign policy expert) Professor Noam Chomsky—globally sought out and immensely respected elsewhere—forgive me if I don’t hold my breath.