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A breach of trust

4/18/2012, 8:07 a.m.
Not paying your debts — there’s no Jesus in that. ...

A breach of trust

It is very disturbing to racial progress for two major black institutions to be in conflict. OneUnited Bank and Charles Street AME Church have taken their disagreement to court. And Rev. Gregory Groover, the pastor of Charles Street has tried to make it appear that the bank is unfair and unreasonable.

However, the bank’s motion filed last week causes one to wonder what on earth the church was thinking. Everyone knows that when you borrow money you must repay it according to the terms of the agreement. Ask any homeowner who is struggling with a mortgage.

Everyone understands that contributions to a church might decline because their parishioners are out of work. Undoubtedly some believed that the recession and high unemployment impaired Charles Street from meeting its financial obligation. But it turns out that is not the problem.

According to the OneUnited motion, Charles Street is actually subservient to the supervening control of the First Episcopal District of the AME Church, located in Philadelphia. The First District is also the actual guarantor on the community center which was under construction. And the First District has $65 million in cash, more than enough to pay the obligation with plenty left over.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the church played a gambit to force OneUnited to accept substantially less than what was owed in order to avoid a public conflict. With so much hostility toward banks, the church probably thought the people would be on the church’s side.

However, African Americans are more sophisticated than that. They know that if you borrow money you must pay it back. And they know that the goal of OneUnited Bank is to lead the way to affluence for all African Americans.

Back in the day

One hundred years ago on April 15, the RMS Titanic struck an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean and sank to the bottom. There were 2,224 people aboard — 1,317 passengers and 907 crew. Only 710 individuals were saved.

As one might expect, the wealthy travelers in first class had 2.5 times the prospect of being rescued as those below in steerage. However, the real test was how well the women survived.

The conduct of the passengers during the crisis indicated a discipline to a moral code that no longer exists. The rule was that women and children board the lifeboats first. According to reports, 86 percent of the women in second class but only 14 percent of the men were saved. The rule today is everyone for himself.

As late as the 1960s it was unmanly and a breach of etiquette for a man to sit on a bus or trolley while women stood. With the advent of the women’s liberation movement, some considered courteous or deferential treatment of women to be acts of subordination. As the gentlemanly behavior toward women began to diminish the comity among men also seemed to decline.

The military draft ended in 1973, so men no longer had to look out for others in battle unless they volunteered to do so. Efforts to replace the draft with required duty in a national public service corps had little political support. So now there is little social pressure at all to require the slightest inconvenience of reliance on one another.

In one century a sense of mutual interdependence and public decorum have died. Now discourtesy is rampant. Car radios are so loud they cause the windows to rattle. Passersby discard their rubbish on the street in front of your house. Drivers honk their horns for a friend in the early hours. And there is a flagrant use of profanity in front of women and the elders.

It is now a do-your-own-thing culture. Those old enough to have lived in a more civil time reflect wistfully on those memories.