Points to Ponder: Reflection on Today's Dilemma Through Yesterday's Eyes

Points to Ponder
Reflection on Today's Dilemma Through Yesterday's Eyes

On my bike trip to Mississippi, I purposely selected certain routes so that I could see various places and learn, or see something familiar from a different angle. Many hours in the saddle gives me time to ponder and pray, and to hear God's quiet insights, which I probably miss on most other days because of the noise of life's daily "priorities."
I pondered a recent conversation with a sincere clergy colleague I have known for years. He spoke of how vitally important it is to him to defend a "woman's right to choose." I received what he was saying without debate or further inquiry. It is a tough issue with sincere advocates on both sides and on points in between.
I came upon a story as I toured the Virginia countryside. Slavery of course was a central feature of the pre-civil war Virginia economy. Many sprawling farms and plantations once prospered on lands now prospering as strip malls and housing developments. The story was one, like so many, which remind us of how horribly hopeless and hard it must have been to be a slave. A child born in the slave cabin had no hopes or dreams ahead of him or her. Like any farm animal, the slave child was raised to give his or her body to hard labor. Even inmates in our prisons don't do hard labor for their crimes as a slave had to do everyday just to live.
The slaves owned nothing, made no income for their work, and could be sold like property. The women endured even greater humiliation as sometimes their white masters used them as objects for their own sexual pleasure.
The story I came upon reminded me of this pastor's sincere concern for "a woman's right to choose." A slave woman had no rights and few choices. One particular slave woman I read about was used by a white man for his pleasures and she woke up one day and realized she was pregnant. Imagine the double indignity of being a slave and a sex object; and then bearing within you the child of this white man. No right to "choose," no options except to do her daily chores with the growing reminder inside her of how much harder life was going to be over the coming months and years.
If she had had the right to choose, as this pastor feels every woman should have, I wonder what she would have done? This pastor colleague is a descendent of slaves himself, being of African ancestry. I wonder what he would think, probably knowing even more stories of slavery than I do.
If this particular slave woman in 1856 had had the "choice" and opted for it; to rid herself of a child she had not planned for nor wanted, history would have a deep void in the story it now tells. The slave woman's child by a white father, was Booker T. Washington.
As a slave boy, he dreamt of obtaining an education. Though a victim of a slave culture, he had no victim mentality. Though he was conceived during a night of one white man's desires and would be considered an "accident," Booker T. Washington lived a life of purpose. In his autobiography, Up From Slavery, we can read of his struggle to get an education at the Hampton Institute, of becoming the first president of Tuskegee Institute in 1881, and of how he encouraged the descendants of slaves to rise to their God given potential through pursuit of an education.
The farm where Washington was born and had worked as a slave is now a historic site, printed on the Virginia State map. He died in 1915, but this one child conceived in sin, in a moment of passion, to a woman who was just another piece of property in that day, was a life that still lives on. How many lives have been greatly influenced--or could be--by the example and legacy of Booker T. Washington?
Then I wondered as I thought of my pastor colleague's sincere concern for the woman's "right." And I thought of this slave woman's situation in 1856. Suppose she had had "the right to choose?"
I guess it's just not as simple as all that, is it? If it's really all about choice, what exactly is it that one is choosing?

This column can be found on the web at: www.fumcl.org. Pastor Whitmore is not affiliated with Picket News, nor does he submit material directly to our publication. We regularly reprint interesting articles found at his public web site and encourage all readers to visit for similar material.