Randy Smith: Stop Racism...Please

  • Saturday, June 22, 2024
  • Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
It's been four years since I wrote a column entitled, "I Am Ashamed." It was about my dealing with racism growing up in the south in the 1950s and 1960s. I was a racist myself even though I never knew it until I went to college. I had never been around black people at all. There were a couple in my class at Madison High School, just outside Nashville. I got along fine with them but disliking them was something I never thought about. Right after I graduated high school and started college at Middle Tennessee State, the city of Nashville debated bussing...which was a term that most white people totally disagreed with.
The concept was this: white kids would be bussed across town to predominantly black schools and black kids would be bussed to white schools. This was a result of the desegregation in our school systems.

Even though the court case "Brown vs the Board of Education" was finalized by the Supreme Court in 1954, it would be many years before segregation would end, especially in the south. It was in 1969-1970 that bussing became a huge issue in Nashville. Then Mayor Beverly Briley was pushing for bussing as a way of curbing segregation, while his opponent ran on a platform based upon nothing more than anti-bussing. Briley was eventually reelected and Nashville slowly began to bus students back and forth across town.

I listened to the wrong people and supported Mayor Briley's opponent but it didn't take long to realize that I was wrong...dead wrong. My opinions began to shift more toward racial equality and understanding more and more the plight of black America. I was again reminded about this time in my life this week, with the passing of baseball great Willie Mays, who died the day before Major League Baseball honored Mays and other players from the Negro Leagues by playing a game at historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham.

In an onset interview on ESPN, Hall of Fame slugger Reggie Jackson spoke frankly about his days of playing baseball in the 1960s in the south. He credited several of his white teammates and Manager John McNamara with helping him survive several altercations with Southern white racists. He said, "I'd have gotten killed here because I'd have beaten somebody's a%&," referring to the many lynchings of black people by white mobs. "You would have seen me in an oak tree somewhere."

Reggie was forced to sleep on his teammate's couch until threats were received to burn the building down if he didn't leave. He wasn't allowed to stay with the team at white hotels and was also not allowed to eat with his teammates in white restaurants. It was the same way with Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and of course Jackie Robinson as they started their baseball careers. It is nothing our society should be proud of. Is it better now? Perhaps...at least black athletes can eat with their white teammates and stay in the same hotels they do. But it's still nowhere near perfect. In the past few years certain parts of our society have emboldened some of those same racist attitudes that were so evident in the 1960s and 1970s.

Until certain people in high places let them know it was okay to exhibit racial feelings and use racial slurs towards people of color, it was deemed inappropriate to do so. Now, things that civil rights leaders fought and died for in the last four decades are in danger of being replaced. Racists are more blatant and out in the open than they were just a few years ago. This is not what God intended.
Four years ago I received literally thousands of likes and positive remarks about my column. But there were a few negative and threatening emails and messages sent as well. Open your hearts and especially your minds. Christ said we were to, "Love your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This the first and great commandment. And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself." And there is nothing that says it should be based upon the color of your neighbor's skin. Not at all.

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Randy Smith can be reached at rsmithsports@epbfi.com
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