Mr. Harvey Told Me
Published October 3, 2023
More than a year ago, Harvey Matthews, said it; he told me. I arrived at Macedonia Baptist Church, finding Mr. Harvey, as I affectionately address him, picking up debris from the church grounds—the abundance of walnuts falling free from the yard’s tree (BTW, that I mistakenly identified as a crabapples), bits of paper scattered onto the lawn by evening breezes, and even the cigar butts and five or six miniature liquor bottles queued ever so neatly on the front steps leading to the entryway of the sanctuary, left behind by a white neighbor that feels entitled to sit on the steps of a Black church, have a private happy hour, and leave the evidence of the desecration, like he expected the bartender to clean it up.
As Mr. Harvey swept up the white man’s mess, he offered, “I know who this man is. I’ve told him once about sitting here on these steps and disrespecting the church, and of course he lied in my face with denial. Reminds me of Mark Elrich. He came in this church here, this sacred place, and lied. He said all how he was gonna support Macedonia because he knew that desecration of Moses Cemetery was wrong.”
Specifically, Mr. Harvey was talking about how the mostly Democratic, white liberal County Council, County Executive, and Congressmen of Montgomery County, Maryland has not and will not support the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition and its fight to stop the desecration of Moses Cemetery at the hands of HOC and developers. For eight years, BACC has been embroiled with the County about the dispossession of our ancestors in a Black cemetery in a historically Black community. They are so staunch in their white liberalism, that they do not even feel the need to meet with the group that will not adhere to their brand of what is best for Black folks.
Generally speaking, this is what we in the Black community have come to expect—that white liberals will walk away from their “liberal” leanings when it comes to the political, economic, and social needs and interests of Black folk. Dr. King told us that from a Birmingham jail in 1963 when he responded to the open letter—A Call for Unity—from eight white sullen clergyman displeased by Dr. King’s “interference” with issues of racial segregation in Alabama. They understood there were racial injustices, however, by their estimate as white liberals and men of the cloth, there were more unifying ways to handle such matters, like waiting patiently and using the courts. Protests, marches, sit-ins, and boycotts demanding equal rights and reinforcing Black humanity were not congenial and offended white liberal sensibilities.
Anthony Farley, Matthews Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at Albany Law School, in his 13 Stories, offers,
“Equality, under liberalism, turns out to be not much of a prize at all. Equality, under liberalism, means only a series of bans against particular acts of discrimination.”
“Liberalism will not acknowledge, and yet is perpetually fascinated by its creations. Liberalism makes a fetish of its abstract equalities and pays no attention to the material inequalities that give them the power to make their fantasies about us [Blacks] a reality.”
Family, stay with me as we use our scholars to break this down.
Dr. Curry explains that this fantasy of racial equality in the U.S. or U.K. is “an imaginative allure that requires Black people to ignore the violence and death of their people in front of their eyes.”
In other words, and specific to BACC, we have a right to have our ancestors rest peaceably, but liberalism is not concerned with nor has any intention of relinquishing power to achieve actual parity. MoCo County Council, Mark Elrich, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Senator Chris Van Hollen have not taken the necessary steps to repair the damage, do what is in the best interest of the Black descendant community, despite countless appeals.
But if that ain’t enough, Black folks also have to deal with these white liberals not staying in their lane. I remember attending an informal lunch of Black community activists in Montgomery County. We were meeting just to shore up—it’s rough out in these streets doing Black liberation work. One activist, actually the woman who suggested that we meet to support and buttress one another shared a story of her angst, frustration, and pissed-off-ness at working in partnership with white liberals. In a nutshell, her white counterpart criticized her actions on an issue and called her an Uncle Tom. WTF!
So in addition to white liberals not really taking on our fights as their own when the proverbial going gets rough, but there is an unmitigated entitlement that we are to respond in a way that aligns with their sensibilities and agendas. How dare we not coordinate with white liberals on how we should address their oppression of us. How dare we use our own creativity and courage to spit in the face of racism and anti-Blackness. How dare we not get their approval on our chess moves to stick it to the man on behalf of our people, the masses of whom are suffering. How dare we.
From my vantage, all of this begs a simple question: why do we continue to put into political office people who fetishize the IDEA of Black and White, Unite and Fight, but in practice, refuse to bust a grape in a food fight, at least on our behalf?