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Louie Crew
377 S. Harrison Street, 12D
East Orange, NJ 07018

Phone: 973-395-1068 h


lcrew@andromeda.rutgers.edu

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Louie & Ernest Clay-Crew
Married February 2, 1974


12/21/1974
 
8/17/2006



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Re: Response to "DEAR STRAIGHT PEOPLE:" My Lenten Observation and Apology



Thanks, Donna.  I share your mixed feelings about Kramer, and your 
appreciation for what we can all learn from allies that appear "over the 
top."

My social imprinting is that of a comfortable white Suthun male.  I was 
brought up to be a 'gentleman.' In social situations gentlemen eschew 
controversy. When asked for a judgment, gentlemen can rarely say more 
than, "It's nice" or "It's interesting."  Gentleman try to avoid 
offending. We smell good and have excellent manners.

It's hard for a gentleman to become a quean -- I have had to work out that 
salvation with fear and trembling.

Growing up deep behind the Cotton Curtain, I was systemically isolated 
from the reality of more than half of the population around me -- African 
Americans made up 12% of my county; poor people made up close to 75%.  My 
4th-grade healh book bragged that in just five more years 50% of Alabamans 
would have in-door plumbing.

My father tried to break me out of my isolation regarding poor people. By 
the time I was six, he took me on Sunday afternoons to a one-room building 
in a mill village where I taught to those five and under the lessons that 
I had learned at our Baptist Sunday School earlier that day.

Once a year Dad would bring all of the children from my class in the mill 
village and have them sit with us in our regular pew on the second row, 
whether they had bathed or not, whether on not they had "Sunday best." Dad 
resented the fact that men in his bible class supported the separate space 
so that they would not have to welcome the poor -- many of them their 
employees -- to our comfortable church with stained class and a pipe 
organ.

While I grew up with black people all around me, under segregation no 
black people ever spoke to me as peers until I went to Baylor University 
in Waco, and I remember being shocked at the directness of my co-workers 
in the kitchen of the girls dormitory.  No more "no m'ams" and "nossuhs."  
No more suffling.

A woman who taught me how to break six eggs at a time seemed almost 
clairvoyant in her observations, so good was she at recognizing clues. "I 
can surely tell you are an only chile," she laughed at me.  I had never 
mentioned that in conversations at work and looked at her quizzically, 
"How on earth did you know?" I asked. "Chile, it sticks out in every thing 
you do.  It's not that you're spoiled, cause you aren't, but few who have 
brothers and sister would make decisions feeling as entitled as you appear 
when you make decisions."

She was also especially insightful if I sought her advice. If she had been 
white, she would easily have become a psychiatrist or a psychologist. 
Segregation, racism, and sexism kept her in the kitchen.

Even she dared not confront my race prejudice directly, but she gave me an 
enormous gift:  she talked to me as my equal, with no apologies.

In her own more limited way, so did Mrs. Eula Jackson, our family domestic 
servant, who began working for us when I was 6 months old, and stayed with 
the family until her death, in my late 30s.  In high school, when I got my 
driver's license, the first time I drove Mrs. Jackson home without my 
parents, I arrived at the car to find her sitting on the front seat, where 
she never sat when my father or mother drove her home.  She knew her 
entitlement.  She looked like royalty, and she was:  she had loved her way 
into my heart with bonds stronger than the family's rhetoric of white 
supremacy.

Years later I showed Eula Jackson Ernest's picture for the first time.  I 
said, "This is the man that I have married."

"Lawzy mercy," she said; "I done brought you up right."

We all are horribly diminished by those who dare not speak to us directly 
and honestly:  yet their cautioon makes sense when they are around folks 
who have seldom respected their dignity.

I am enormously grateful when friends don't edit their observations to 
protect me from their reality. For nine years of my professional life I 
taught in historically black colleges.  Most of my family is black. The 
Episcopal Church is one of the few places I hang out where the majority 
are white.

I still have to work at being a quean around straight friends.  I do so as 
a gift, not as an insult.

Donna, you have blessed me enormously with your loving candor.  I am a 
slow learner.  For a long time I felt that my world was just not ready for 
the transgendered. "Goodness gracious, I reasoned, my world is not even 
used to lesbians and gays yet."  I now see that I was speaking for myself, 
not for my world.  I am glad that you loved me before I could love you, 
that you brought Christ to me whether I was ready or not.

H**jah! (censored in Lent)

Love, Louie


On Mar 24 11:26am Donna Cartwright wrote:

[Shared with Donna Cartwright's generous permission. -- LC]

Dear E****:

     My reactions to the Larry Kramer piece were actually mixed. Kramer is 
often over the top and is sometimes careless with facts. He can convey the 
impression that he lives only among gay people (he doesn't even seem to 
recognize that trans people exist) and that he thinks that straight people 
are foreigners, strangers to him and to all of us LGBT people. I think 
he's wrong about that.

   But I also think that Kramer speaks the uncomfortable truth about some 
realities that lots of straight people would rather overlook. He's right 
on the money, in my humble opinion, with his comments on the Clinton 
Administration (don't-ask-don't-tell and DOMA) and on this year's crop of 
Democratic presidential hopefuls and their reluctance to unequivocally 
embrace LGBT equality. I was deeply disappointed that Barack Obama had to 
take several opportunities before he could get it right.

    I was never exactly straight, but for most of my life I lived in 
"straight world", almost as a kind of mole or something. When I crossed 
over into queer world, it soon became apparent to me that many straight 
people, and even many straight progressives, find us (LGBT people) lovable 
but more than a bit embarrassing. This is, of course, by no means 
universal. But it is disturbing nonetheless.

   Within TEC, for example, I think of Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia. He 
voted to consent to Gene Robinson's election, and afterwards was quoted in 
the New York Times as saying that he had thought of his silence during the 
African-American civil rights movement and regretted it, and was 
determined not to repeat that kind of behavior. But within a year, after 
the huge storm erupted over Gene's consecration, he was quoted as saying 
he regretted supporting the Robinson election and wouldn't do it again if 
he had it to do over. This speaks volumes, in my humble view, about the 
actual strength and depth of his commitment to justice.

   Or I think of Presiding Bishop Griswold's swings back and forth on the 
gay issue between GC 2003 and GC 2006, and of Presiding Bishop 
Jefferts-Schori's support for the moratorium on any more gay bishops GC 
2006. In the last few days, since the HoB meeting in Texas, I am more 
confident of her steadfastness in support of justice, and inclined to 
ascribe her apparent waffling over the last nine months or so to strategic 
prudence.
 
   I should, of course, note that not all straight allies in TEC are 
wafflers. Bishop Croneberger, Bishop Chane of Washington, Bishop Andrus of 
California have all shown to my satisfaction that they have internalized 
LGBT equality and are prepared to stand up for it. Bishop Sisk of New York 
has been a pleasant surprise, given his past low profile on our issues.
 

   So anyway, I think that while Kramer ruffles feathers and is 
injudicious in some of the things he says, he is also bringing some 
uncomfortable truths to the table. Please feel free to share this 
communication to the extent that you feel it is helpful.
 
Best
 
Donna Cartwright




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