(Editor’s Note: The following is a reprint of a column from The Shelbyville News, Shelbyville, Indiana)
By Paul E. Gable
The final shots of the Civil War sounded 146 years ago.
Brown vs. the Board was 57 years ago, and, 48 years ago, the famous” I Have a Dream” speech was delivered. However, one has to question just how far we haven’t come when it comes to racism in this country.
The actions of a select few at games at Triton Central Friday and at a high school in Tennessee have me wondering what exactly is going on when people think it’s “cool” to hurl racial slurs at the opposition.
It is absolutely disgraceful that, in 2011, some of us can’t see beyond the color of a person’s skin.
I completely understand the racial issues that we, as a nation, have had, but I thought that was a thing of the past.
Perhaps, I am naive and young. Regardless, the actions are revolting.
Growing up in South Carolina, the birthplace of the Civil War, you would always hear stories about how fans would fly the Stars and Bars at games, the band would crank up Dixie and there were different water fountains and seats for blacks and whites during the games.
In South Carolina, a state that still flies the Confederate flag on its Statehouse grounds, students attend schools named after the likes of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and Strom Thurmond.
And, for all the racial undercurrents and grown adults chaining themselves to the flag pole which the Confederate flag flies on, I never once, in the decade run I had covering high school athletics in the Palmetto State, heard someone yell the “n word” at a high school student-athlete.
All that changed last Friday, and I am still at a complete loss for words about the whole ordeal. It took 15 years in the sports journalism business for me to hear that word at a sporting event, and, of all the places, it was at a high school basketball game in Central Indiana. I could envision hearing it at a European soccer match, but not here. Not in our own backyard.
To subject a high school athlete to racial epithets from the stands is disgraceful. High school athletics are supposed to be part of the overall educational experience. What a wonderful experience it must have been for a student-athlete to be subjected to being called a racial slur.
What lessons are we teaching our children?
And it’s not just here in Shelby County.There was an incident in Tennessee recently where Warren County coach Malcolm Montgomery pulled his team off the floor in an overtime game at Van Buren County because of alleged racism.
What happened at those two games is a microcosm of what is wrong with our country today. We have reverted to a society with an attitude where if you don’t look like me, think like me and act like me, you are wrong.
Whatever happened to “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men all created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
We, as a nation, fought a war over those ideals. Yet, here in Central Indiana and in Tennessee, 235 years later, there are some who denied at least a degree of those ideals to young student-athletes.
While the lives of those athletes may not have been threatened, there were those who denied their liberty to be on the court and their pursuit of happiness in athletic competition just because their skin was a different color.
Sixty-four years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, there are still fans who will yell racial slurs from the stands at a player of a different color.
While this is not a very proud moment for the supposed land of the free, we will continue to strive in hopes that one day we shall overcome.
The writer is a native of Loris, S.C. and a graduate of Newberry College. He is currently a sports journalist at “The Shelbyville News” in Shelbyville, Indiana.