I'm back home at last from South Dakota. Many thanks to MWBro. Virgil Anderson, the immediate Past Grand Master, his wife Vi, and especially to WBro. Perry Anderson and his lady Dee, for their many kindnesses to Alice, Wiley and me during their Grand Lodge in Sioux Falls. It was great to meet so many brethren, and I am absolutely humbled by the decision of the South Dakota Lodge of Masonic Research to use Freemasons For Dummies as their book selection this year for their members.
The drive home allowed me to think further on the Georgia situation. I have seen elsewhere comments calling for the suspension of fraternal relations in Georgia over this. Keep in mind, the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge have done NOTHING as of yet, apart from allowing Masonic charges to proceed. No decisions have been made, no trial has been held. Further, it is my understanding that there are NO written portions of the Georgia Masonic code that prohibit black men from being made Masons. In light of the Grand Master's letter explaining Brother Marshall's proper membership, along with sitting with Brother Marshall in lodge, I do not believe MWBro. Jennings has any desire to see Gate City or its Master found guilty of any offense. I cannot help but believe it is most likely that the whole point of allowing these charges to be brought is to get this festering wound on the body of Georgia Masonry out on the table and dispensed with, once and for all.
Several black brethren were raised in Kentucky last year. A tiny handful of bigoted members attempted to block the raising of a black Mason in Florida, and the Grand Master had to step in. Indiana has not been a cakewalk—we were at one time the center of Klan activity in the United States, and David Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the KKK in 22 states was a sojourner (from Massachusetts) in Irvington Lodge No. 666 (!) in Indianapolis, back in the 1920s. But we have raised African-American brethren in my lodge, and others throughout Indiana, and we enjoy an outstanding relationship with Prince Hall lodges in the city (our immediate Past Master is now part of a Prince Hall degree team that raised several brethren last weekend, with both Grand Masters of Indiana present). Not all that long ago, we held a joint degree in the downtown Indianapolis temple, and Prince Hall brethren were raised on the floor of what was unofficially known in the 20s as the "Klan Lodge."
As the old proverb goes, "One does evil enough when one does nothing good." There is no easy way to break men of a lifetime of prejudices. But there are strong leaders in many of the states with a history of longstanding racism, who are moving through the grand officers lines, and are attempting to put things right and bring Freemasonry in their states closer to its intended design of brotherly love and tolerance.
The British politician and poet Thomas Babington Macaulay famously said, "The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out." Grand Master Jennings is deserving of our respect and trust. No one outside of Georgia has a right to know his plans or beliefs, but the Internet has made it impossible to keep these matters private anymore. The spotlight of the Masonic world is now pointed at him and at Georgia Freemasonry to see what happens next. That's an uncomfortable spot to be in.