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home : opinion : opinion April 12, 2021

4/6/2021 7:45:00 PM
Commentary
Charlie Scott played for the Tarheels and Dean Smith before being Rookie of the Year in the ABA.  Later he played for several NBA teams.  photo courtesy of University of North Carolina
Charlie Scott played for the Tarheels and Dean Smith before being Rookie of the Year in the ABA.  Later he played for several NBA teams.  

photo courtesy of University of North Carolina

L. Wayne Howard
Staff Writer


I was recently discussing basketball, not race, when I commented to someone that I remembered when Charlie Scott became, so far as I know and I think I'm accurate on this, the first black person ever to play golf at Lincoln Country Club. It wasn't when he was the first black player at the University of North Carolina, but a few years later when the ACC Sportswriters got together in Lincolnton. It was customary for the group to gather each year in late summer for an annual meeting in the hometown of the current president. Jack Brown of WLON Radio was president of the group in the early 70s, so they came to Lincolnton. The meeting always included a session with the basketball coaches who brought along one or two of their players. The coaches did interviews with the newspaper, tv and radio sports people. I recall most of all the year that both Coach K and Jim Valvano were new guys at Duke and NC State, and I still love to share the story that Jimmy V told the gathering that year (1980).

The year the ACC Sportswriters gathered in Lincolnton, Dean Smith also invited along a former player who had been playing in the ABA, which had a close association with Charlotte including a team there (now the Denver Nuggets). Charlie Scott had been the ABA Rookie of the Year his first season, but after two years with a Virginia ABA team, he left to go to the NBA and the Phoenix Suns.

I don't think any person of color had ever played at Lincoln Country Club, but nobody was going to bring that up to Dean Smith or his guest.

The person with whom I was talking recently then asked me, "and how many blacks play at Lincoln Country Club now?" I truthfully don't know. I do know that the club has no specific racial prohibition, but I have to agree with the person with whom I was chatting that we are indeed still very much a segregated society.

She also told me she took offense at the Lincoln Herald's decision related to recent vandalism at two schools that we ought to "put it behind us." Some Facebook commenters on editorials we published on the matter also chided us for (their words) 'sweeping it under the rug.' We feared that publicizing what almost everyone agrees was wrongful acts would only add fuel to a fire that needed to be put out. I think we were right.

The person with whom I was speaking also commented that the prayer meeting held in front of one of the schools wasn't an answer. Nothing was going to change. In the short term, I believe she is right.

America as a whole is very much in 2021 as it was in 1961, a segregated society. Some things HAVE changed: you can't legally refuse to serve someone in a restaurant because of the color of their skin. Kids of all colors attend public schools together. But the facade hides a truth: we are still segregated.

Part of the problem with integration is that it was a lie. We didn't blend two societies. We made it possible for blacks to come into white society. They could go to formerly all-white schools, they could eat in restaurants at the same counters as whites, they didn't have to use separate bathrooms. What we insisted that they do--not verbally in so many words, but in reality--is give up much of their own society. In many cities (like Charlotte, Durham, etc.) urban 'renewal' destroyed formerly thriving black neighborhoods. Blacks who managed to overcome what were still (and are still today) inequities in opportunity can now live 'just like white people.' Those who can't are supposed to stay 'in their place' as the old saying went, in the 'hood, and out of sight and mind.

I've often remarked that if 'separate but equal' had been true, we'd never have had (nor needed) integration. Black folk would have been quite happy not to have to behave like white folk to get along. They had their own institutions, their own businesses, and if those had been allowed to fully develop without discriminatory regulations, they would have been even more able to say what James Brown did, "I'm black, and I'm proud!" (Say it loud!)

Just how segregated are we? Ask black folk about their opinion of Black Lives Matter and then ask whites. Ask who is offended by Confederate monuments and who, although they never knew that fourth cousin three times removed whose grandfather fought on the losing side in the Civil War nor any real history of that supposed 'ancestor,' still insists its part of their heritage. People who say they 'don't have a racist bone in my body' still want to wave the Confederate battle flag or have one on the window or bumper of their truck.

My problem with some of the discussions, with continuing to discuss the vandalism incidents, etc. is that like the lady said, "nothing will come of it." Attitudes won't change; the underlying problems won't be solved. As I said at an NAACP meeting a few years back when another issue was being discussed and there was talk of staging a march at a park in Charlotte, "and what will we accomplish? Come Monday, will the powers that be remark, 'I saw a bunch of blacks (not the word they'd likely use) got together at the park yesterday.'

There are REAL problems and they deserve REAL solutions. How? Much of it will have to be done at the ballot box. When MLK spoke at the March on Washington in August 1963, he spoke about a dream that is far from fulfilled. By the way, the march wasn't his idea, and he actually opposed it at first. Most people forget the more important part of what it was about. The first word wasn't freedom; it was jobs! It was a March on Washington for JOBS and Freedom. Sadly, we have allowed the freedom part, also unfulfilled, to hide from consciousness the more important part--economic opportunity. It's very much akin to what happened in the 1860s when the slaves were set free, but there was no 'forty acres and a mule.' They had to become sharecroppers and hired hands only slightly removed from slave status to survive.

I am short-term 'discouraged,' and long-term 'encouraged.' As more and more black boys and girls and white boys and girls (and those of other ethnicities) fall in love and end up creating mixed babies, we may eventually (I pray to God) get to a point where the color (or shade) of one's skin isn't that important.

I've noticed over the years (and I've lived a long time) that at social gatherings, people tend to gather with those who are like themselves. If you want to see things change as I do, I would suggest one of the best things you can do is to get to know people who are different from you. I don't care what people say, we all have biases; the first thing you notice when meeting someone is their appearance--and that includes the color of their skin. If you get to know that person, you may find that over time, you stop noticing. His/her skin color will become unimportant. You may even be able to learn to tolerate his/her religious differences or political leanings.

Until that happens, go ahead, call me a pinko socialist, swear that I and others like me are children of the devil. When you are through shouting and stomping, take time to learn what Maya Angelou wisely said, "we are far more alike, my friends, than we are unalike."



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