(no name) ((no email))
Tue, 20 Aug 1991 10:49:00 EDT
This reminds me of a short story that I tell groups, primarily black churches
and groups like the Urban League. The moral of this story is twofold: one, until
you actually experience it, you don't really know how people feel; and the other
is that Scouting, for all of the bad press it gets, for all of the terrible
experiences of our youth and adults, is still the best youth program there is.
I know. I am a product of the entire program. And this story tells you about
why we instill those things called the Scout Law in our Scouts.
While I was a undergrad here at EKU, I also served as a paraprofessional with
several Councils (a paraprofessional is a parttime employee that assists a
District Executive or Program Director in a given area of emphasis. We in
the BSA don't have many of us left, because of financial and insurance problems.
More on that some other time). One afternoon, a DE called me and asked if I
would come and speak at a group in a small Kentucky town for him. He had to
raise money five counties away and this group was eager to know how to get a
Scout troop going...and they needed to be "pumped up". Of course, I said
"sure" and went.
When I arrived, I walked up to the door of the building where the meeting was
to be held. I was stopped by a old man before I even placed my hand on the door
handle. "You can't go in there", he said.
"I was invited. My name is Mike Walton and I'm with the Boy Scouts". I then
showed him my card. He looked at it, then back at me, then back at the card.
He then let me pass and I walked in.
Inside, I found the main meeting room and as I do anywhere, I placed my things
down and looked at the setup from the lecturn. I like to get a idea of where
everyone would be sitting down. While I was setting my things together, I
noticed that there were two black guys peering out from the back of the room.
One was motioning his hands for me to come there. I looked at my watch and
basically ignored them.
As the people started to come in, they all looked at the man sitting at the
head table. The President of the group, a local hardware store operator (I
saw his name on the sign as I came into town) shook my hands and asked where
Dean was. I explained that he was unable to come out and that I would be glad
to talk with and explain Scouting's programs. There were lots of stares.
I was (and still am) used to lots of stares at being the only black guy at
a dinner, or at a meeting, or at a OA function, etc. So, when these folks were
looking at me and (some) pointing, I felt okay but still those two black guys
were at the back of the room, waving at me to come in.
I waved back.
Like in every place I go to, I then look at the program. Sometimes, the group
places the guest speaker at the beginning so that they can get their busines
done afterwards; other groups give you the last fifteen or so at the end so
you can lull them to sleep after they have eaten. This one would be at the end.
I read where I would be, the order of the meeting and then I looked at the
top of the program. There in large black block letters are something that
gave my tummy a big drop:
I was to speak to the local chapter of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
Yes, the only black face there was to tell Klansmen about Scouting. What could
I say to them and keep my body intact afterwards??
Well, I told them about my experiences in Scouting. That Scouting is not for
every kid that comes up and wants to join. That Scouting is important because
unlike school or church we allow each person to progress at their own rate
of speed..to learn at their own pace and to do so with the peer assistance of
other youth and supervision by adults with their best interests in mind.
I also stated that Scouting has always been the "great equalizer" because
both rural and urban youth belong (I didn't mention anything about race).
Afterwards, while walking out, many of those there shook my hands and commented
on the great speech (I was scared to death, folks!) I gave and when I could
come back (not on your life!). I again was thanked by the president and then
I left for the car.
Outside, one of the black guys from the kitchen came out from the back and
yelled " Hey! We tried to tell you that that weas a Klan meetin' in there!
Didn't you know??"
"Not until I read the program." I got in my car, drove slowly out of the town
and fast until I hit the county line and then stopped to call the Scout Exec
in Louisville and told him about my experience.
Both Hal Cory and Mike Walton relates this story to Scouting and to other
groups. I tell people that everyone, even the Klan has a right to know
about Scouting and the good it does. That don't mean that we have to let
Klan groups organize Scouting units (and if you know of a group running a
unit, you should inform your Scout Executive immediately). That does mean that
as Scouts, we are brave enough to do what is right; that we have reverance
in our heart to disagree with what they are about but still respect their
right to assemble; and that we are cheerful "even in the midst of tollsome
tasks and weighly responsibilities".
In my office in my apartment, is a copy of the program framed. It reminds me
that racism is still there, that it will always be there, but that I don't
have to be petrified about it.
There are many instances where I or Scouts with me were subjected to these
kinds of things. We talk about it then, we express our feelings about it and
then we resolve to do something about it. You would be amazed at the maturity
level of a 12 or 13 year old who is faced with either "going against the grain"
or leaving his black (or Hispanic, or in one case American--this happened in
Germany)brother Scouts outside the door. There are many cases of "separate
but unequal" troops out there (where two Troops are organized, one for the
black kids and one for the white kids)..predominately in the deep South
with the blessings of many Scout Executives (two large units are better than
one smaller unit)and Council Exec Boards.
I could say much more, but I will leave this for others to comment on.
Settummanque!!!@HEY!! Scouting IS the GREAT EQUALIZER!
Eastern Kentucky University
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City