Monday, February 19, 2007


To the Righteous Priests Who Called Me Racist

It was a risky post, I know... trying to play off the word primate in an Anglican meeting in Tanzania. The new presiding bishop of the U.S. Episcopal Church was snubbed by a bunch of other bishops, some of them African, who were outraged at her acceptance of gay bishops, gay priests, gay everybody.

The articles I read about the conclave kept referring to the bishops as primates. I couldn't resist. I quaked some, aware of macaca, of racist connections between apes and black people. Still, I had my own connection to monkey-ness, to our physical selves, and let it carry the day.

Suddenly, from somewhere out in the blogosphere, I felt the sting of priest-spit. Proud racist! Sorry to see you stoop so low. The kindest of them called me misguided and suggested that I take the high road and remove the post.

They didn't get it. I don't consider the African bishops particularly monkey-like. I consider us all to be monkey-like. And if you are going to go around calling your top people primates, don't begrudge me a little bloggy free-association.

I'll probably never hear from the monkeys-in-chausables again. They seem like the judge-and-run type. They've probably run back to their own blogs to intone about the Church Universal, the non-monkey Body of Christ, and all that. For my regular readers (all three of you, now that Mum has died), a poem by my favorite poet, Irene McKinney:

Monkey Heart

The monkey climbs up a peepul tree
in Bhubaneswar. Monkey mind, monkey heart,
monkey glands that Yeats paid thousands for
to jump-start his sagging libido. Admonishing
ourselves, we say we're like the chimps, baboons,
and monkeys. But we should be so lucky
as to have such instincts and savanna-smarts,
to survive and thrive without a hat or dress
or shoes. The species we look down on
are not looking up to us. Blue-assed baboons
don't give a rat's ass what we think of
beauty, and I don't think resort to using
us as metaphors or formulating theories
that they sprang from man. They sprang,
and are springing even as we speak, and
if I told you we've been treating them like
dogs you might see what I mean. You'd
say you weren't serious, that some of your
best friends are dogs, and it was just a joke.
A woman in Charlottesville told me a joke
about West Virginians, involving mobile
homes and incest. When I didn't laugh she said
she'd mean no harm, that some of her best
friends were hillbillies. I didn't tell her
to stop monkeying around or that she
reminded me of an ocelot, albeit one
who had gone to Sweetbriar.
And now my monkey muscles
hurt, my monkey throat is dry. I'm
leaping headlong into monkey rage.
Forgive my monkey heart.

Not cutting and running. I appreciate you explanation. You can see who I am by my blog links. And if you look at some of the others you will discover who they are too. I admit to being hypersensitive on the link between "monkeys" and primates from Africa. It is from years of being told by my African American colleagues that is how they see it. Thanks for continuing the conversation. I found your site from the link on another blog comment you made.
That poem is so unusual I must read it again and again.
I am sorry your Mum died.
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