The story of the Three Wise Monkeys is a Japanese proverb focusing on associations of good mind, speech and action. The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil. In the telling of the story sometimes there is a fourth monkey depicted with the other three. This one Shizaru, symbolizes the principle of “do no evil.” He is often shown crossing his arms.
In the Western world the ideology of the Three Wise Monkeys is often used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by turning a blind eye. So returning to “The Invisibles,” understanding that our children having been sexually abused by a member of the clergy within the African-American community, what does this have to do with the Three Wise Monkeys?
We of the African-American community of Seattle have become the embodiment of the Three Wise Monkeys. We have knowledge and awareness of the following information:
1) In October 2012, a former member of the clergy of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church pled guilty to 22 counts of sex abuse i.e. rape of child, child molestation, sexual exploitation of a minor and possession of child pornography; and:
2) The former minister confessed to sexually abusing 10 boys from 1997 to 2011; and
3) The children and adolescents were unwittingly delivered to him as they came into contact with him while he was holding various “positions of trust” i.e. foster parent, Boys & Girls Club youth supervisor and ministering in various churches activates and youth programs.
We have the capability through social action to ensure that those victimized individuals and families receive validation and (if desired) mental health treatment. We can hold our clergy accountable not only in the judicial system but in our community as well. We can ensure that our children will be protected while being placed in the trust and guidance of those who are ordained and committed to our salvation.
And yet we choose to remain silent. Recently in reviewing The Facts, the newspaper of the Seattle African American community, I read articles regarding community & church preparations for the upcoming holidays, pastoral celebrations and obituaries of the recently deceased.
And yet, there was not one word regarding “The Invisibles” i.e. the sexually abused boys and adolescents. There are several questions to be asked:
Why call these children the Invisibles?
Why not refer to them as the 10 i.e. ten victims?
Why are we i.e. the African-American community holding onto silence?
One, the children are referred to as the Invisibles because they are silent and thus unseen. However the focus is on us, the adults who by our status as parents and adults are in the mentorship and modeling roles for our children. We want them to be silent. In their silence they merely “exist.” In their existence, we hope that they in time will simply fade away.
As long as they are invisible, WE do not have to raise our heads. We can continue tithing and seeking salvation. We can go on pretending that all is well. We can continue to lure ourselves into the fantasy that the sexual abuse by those to whom we have entrusted our children was an “aberration.” An aberration that is never to occur again.
The Invisibles are not referred to as the “10” because there is a STRONG probability that more than ten children were sexually abused by the former minister. The ten boys and adolescents he admitted to abusing were the ones that the legal system can prove he actually abused. It is highly likely that in 11 years of having open access to young males, this individual sexually abused more children than he has confessed to.
If indeed more than ten boys and adolescents have been abused then why have they not come forward? Why are they silent? Why indeed?
It could be that they are mirroring or reflecting what is being felt within their community. It could be that they are silent due to the concern of being labeled. Finally it could be that they are silent due to fear. Fear? Fear of what?
Fear of what others may think of them. Fear of what they may question or think about themselves. Guilt. Shame. Humiliation. The Invisibles may be silent for the very same reasons that the community is silent. Guilt. Shame. Humiliation.
One of my favorite television shows is “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” I recall in one episode portraying an African-American NBA figure publicly coming forward on national media acknowledging that his high school coach had repeatedly sexually abused him.
In coming forward the star basketball player stated that he was utilizing this as an opportunity for other boys & adolescents who were similarly abused to come forward. Behind him stood his team of all African-American adult males with their hands on his shoulders, supporting him. The embrace, love and support that they showed him brought tears to my eyes.
Yeah…. I know. It was “just” a television episode. However it can be a model for the reality that is now occurring in our community. We can make a stand for these children. We can embrace them. We can advocate for them. We can do what we can to ensure these children know that they are indeed visible and more specifically, they exist and they are alive!
However to achieve this, the ending of “suffering in silence” we must first bring down the “wall of silence” that currently is a living, breathing thing lurking at will in our community. We must want to respond to our own fear. We must want to learn to “live with fear” and cease the current behaviors of “living in fear.”
Today our community is drowning in fear. The fear has resulted in “nonfeasance.” Nonfeasance can be defined as the willingness to ignore and take no indicated action. Specifically, it’s having knowledge and awareness of a specific occurrence and the deliberate choice of “taking no action.”
As I stated in my last writing of At the Crossroads,
“It would be easy to point the finger at someone or some organization to cast fault or blame. However both blame and fault are poor motivators. Out of their ashes only guilt and shame will arise. Rather it is our responsibility to our children that they be protected and safe. We want them to understand that they are valued and will be validated and cared for. They need not suffer in silence any longer.”
I would encourage the reader to take the following action(s):
1) Contact Reverend Robert Lee Manaway, Pastor, Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church 2801 South Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98144 (206) 329-9794
Inquire as to what actions are being taken to respond to and/or alleviate the suffering of those abused by a member of his staff.
2) Contact the United Black Clergy Association of Seattle. (Contact can be initiated via the local African-American churches of Seattle.
Inquire as to what the organization is doing to assist Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church to respond to this situation. Furthermore, inquire as to what the organization is doing to prevent and respond to sexual abuse within the African-American church.
3) Contact your spiritual leader and inquire what your religious or spiritual organization, church, mosque, temple, or synagogue can do to assist the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
4) Share this writing of At the Crossroads and the previous ones with others. Ask that they also make inquiries into the issues that have been addressed.
Returning to the ideology of the “Three Wise Monkeys,” as stated earlier, in the telling of the story there is a fourth monkey, Shizaru, who is shown crossing his arms symbolizing “do no evil.” In our community evil has already been done. We can become Shizaru and work to create wellness in our community, beginning with those who “suffer in silence.”
“I Believe I’ve Been Blue Too Long”
All around me there’s a solid wall.
A wall of trouble and confusion, I done tired of it all.
I believe, I believe I’ve been blue too long.
B.B. King & David Clark
(1971) Universal Duchess Music
At the next crossroads: Betrayal Trauma: The Impact of Living in Fear
Until the next crossroads. The journey continues…