Op-ed by Adeeba Folami
In early April, James L. Bevel, 71, was convicted of sexually molesting his now 29 year old daughter when she was a teenager in the early 1990s. For any who are unfamiliar, Bevel was a close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. and a long time activist and minister, serving the years prior to his 2007 arrest as pastor of the Hebraic-Christian-Islamic Assembly in Chicago. He also played a key role in the 1995 Million Man March (MMM) and is the one who greatly inspired the “atonement” theme of that gathering. Ironically, sexual abuse of young children was specifically addressed as part of the MMM pledge the gathered mass of men was asked to make that day.
“I pledge that from this day forward I will never engage in the abuse of children, little boys or little girls for sexual gratification. For I will let them grow in peace to be strong men and women for the future of our people.”
Oddly, only years before the march, Bevel was violating his own daughter, something she today says he never atoned for even though, in 2004, he was confronted by the woman and several of her siblings who were also, reportedly, molested by their father. News reports have Bevel admitting to rubbing his daughter’s chest but never engaging in intercourse. He further said the charges, trial and conviction were all part of a conspiracy to destroy his reputation. That may or may not be true but even if it is, it does not mean his daughter’s recollections are untrue. Just as many Black women who recall their fathers crossing certain boundaries with them are not making things up just to conspire against and “bring a Black man down”. No, some Black men, like Bevel, are put on front street due to their own actions and the unreasonable expectation that their own daughters should be willing to happily sacrifice themselves, live a lie and silently carry the shame, guilt and heavy burden which come as a result of abuse. The abused are expected to act as though nothing ever happened even if it kills them or drives them to insanity, substance abuse, or any of a long list of negative behaviors that abuse victims adopt or resort to in their attempts to escape a tragic reality that was forced upon them.
It is very clear that fathers who commit incest are completely ignorant that blurring healthy parent/child boundaries is truly damaging. Or worse, they are aware that their actions are in many ways destroying that child but only care about their own selfish sexual gratification. If fathers understood, they would never entertain the thought of crossing that sacred boundary since it will negatively affect that child for life. Men who abuse their offspring are clueless to the fact that they are shooting themselves in the foot since, once those boundaries are crossed, that daughter’s ability to trust male authority is destroyed, or greatly impaired. That female child then is sentenced to a life time struggle of attempting to reconcile two irreconcilable extremes. On one hand, loving the man whose seed produced her because, after all, every daughter loves her father even if that love is buried underneath a ton of hurt, pain, resentment and confusion. Then on the other hand, that hurting daughter – as she matures – wrestles with being honest enough with herself to admit that on another level, she literally hates her father for what he did. For placing such an unfair and heavy load upon her which, many times, the father – when confronted – will deny having anything to do with. Not only is the daughter left holding the heavy bag, the unspoken message is that she is mistaken in what she remembers.
In some instances, families side with the father because of their inability to handle their abused relative’s reality which is in direct contrast to their own experiences. That did not happen with Bevel’s daughter who received the support of her siblings and mother in going through the hard process of confronting her abuser. She was compelled to do so for the protection of her step-sister, born to Bevel and his current wife shortly before the 2004 confrontation. Her decision has to be respected in that she correctly made the safety of that newborn a priority over salvaging Bevel’s reputation.
In contrast to the support system Bevel’s daughter was blessed with, there are other cases where dysfunction is so great that family members show, by their refusal to accept abuse claims, that they expect the victim to forget the past for the sake of upholding the facade of a picture perfect family whose patriarch – often a man of faith and thought to be full of integrity – would “NEVER do anything like that.” Yeah. Right.
Only those who have been through this can truly understand, or even articulate, what an abused woman feels when her own father is also her rapist, molester, or abuser. Black fathers, do you understand why your actions make it difficult (and in some cases impossible) for women to respect Black male authority? Isn’t that what so many of you want and yet complain that you can’t seem to find? Those of you who are not abusers, what are you doing to address the travesty of sexual abuse in the Black community? Some of you are well practiced in traveling the country rallying against police brutality and racism, but some in your ranks who abuse children are defeating your purpose. How can you as Black men spend so much time protesting about what others are doing to “the Black community” yet spend little, if any, time protesting the criminal, perverted and community-destroying acts committed by Black men against children in their homes? Where are the men who stood in unity October 16, 1995 citing that MMM pledge and chanting “Long live the spirit of the Million Man March,” and how many of them, like Bevel, are now convicted child abusers in, or on their way to, prison?
© 2008 – All Rights Reserved – The Black House News
Unlimited online distribution allowed with acknowledgement of bhonline.org as the source