by Fred Haynes
It’s amazing how Race is an ever-current topic of discussion. There can never be too many discussions if it constructively & positively reaches & pushes one towards understanding, tolerance and respect. Honestly, the real culprits in this madness are the adults who pass hate & racism down thru ancestry like a birthright. When children play together without indoctrinated negative influence, you will not see evil. PLAYING SPORTS….it’s how I first developed my few friendships with white folk….it’s also how I reviewed my first taste of hate.
Circa 1978, my brother and I played Little League baseball (Pirates). We were the only “brothers” on the team, but the coaches and other guys didn’t make us feel “different”. Week after week, we sharpened our skills as players and played in harmony with white kids in a way that my dad & grandpa really couldn’t do.
As most parents did, my folks ordered pictures for memories. Well, I have an individual photo where I refused to smile. My folks were pissed and my brother still makes fun of me to this day. After 35+ years, I never told anyone why I didn’t smile….until now.
BACKGROUND: The location was in a small park…deep in the white part of town and at this point in our lives, we never had interactions with white people other than teachers. As kids, that didn’t matter because we just wanted to play. When Pops didn’t have to work, he would drive us and would help out with coaching. One time he couldn’t take us and so my mother, my 2 siblings and I walked the 1 mile journey to play ball. After that ensuing trip, we never walked there again. Unknown to my siblings and me, being so filled with excitement of going to a park that we probably didn’t hear few people hurling racial slurs at us. 10 years after the death of Dr King, in Summit, IL, adults were calling us niggers and saying we didn’t belong there as told by mother. After that, one of the coaches would pick us up when Pops couldn’t.
On picture day, why didn’t I smile? A few days prior at a game, I connected a hit from an Eason aluminum bat and ran like hell to 1st base. As I stood on that base, as God as my witness, as sure as I’m breathing life and as sure as the pain felt physical to evoke tears, I felt like dying when the 1st base coach looked at me with those cold Confederate eyes, opened his mouth through that full 70’s style beard and said to me (a child)…
“You look like an ugly, big lipped monkey when you run”.
The horror, shame and hurt that I felt is still indescribable to this day. How can any man, despite your racial views, say that to any child. The punk ass coward picked the day when my parents weren’t there to debase and humiliate me. I’m not sure why I didn’t say anything. Pops would have put some really bad injuries on his body. I was ashamed and afraid. Trying to reconcile the verbal assault from this white MF’er against the entire white population was difficult at times, especially when I have been the only black in a particular setting. The reason I didn’t smile? I believed all white folk saw me as “an ugly, big lipped monkey”.
I want to say that I’m good now after understanding & recognizing the good/bad in people on a individual basis as well culturally, politically and socially. I refused to let him have residual power over me that dictates my thinking and my love for all mankind. But do I forgive him….HELL NO!
I can comfortably say 37 years later…
“Mr Ashcraft, say it to my face now. I’m no longer afraid of you. Please, I insist”.