When I first moved to Alabama, some friends and family were wary.
My dad, for instance, had traveled to 48 states prior to me moving here. One of the only two he’d never been to was Alabama. He said, “Well, I don’t want to go to a state where they were chasing black children down the street with fire hoses during my lifetime.”
I’ve always been proud to say since moving here nearly three years ago, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the lack of overt racism I see on a regular basis. Of course there are still things I wouldn’t want happening and I obviously can never see racism from a black person’s perspective.
I also live in a world of sports where boundaries seem to be more easily crossed. When everyone dons the same color jersey on Friday night, the color of people’s skin seems to matter less. I’ve always been proud to live in a world where race doesn’t matter as much, where ethnicity, spirituality and race somehow slip away as student-athletes, coaches and fans fight for one common goal.
That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, of course, but living in Alabama, it’s been better than I expected.
Of course there are exceptions and it’s extremely disheartening to hear of the most recent blatant exception. Horseshoe Bend recently hosted Ranburne in a high school basketball game and I heard multiple reports of the Bulldogs using derogatory terms and racial slurs against HBS players. I confirmed this with someone who was refereeing the game who said he did in fact give a technical to a Ranburne player for using the N-word.
I can’t tell you how disgusted I was to read this.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about behavior like this from Ranburne. I was warned about going there before I attended a Reeltown game this season; the person told me going there was “like stepping back into 1950.” And I was correctly warned. When a white Reeltown player momentarily went down with an injury, I was truly disturbed to hear screams of, “Do that to the black kid!” from the home stands.
I, for one, was even concerned and hesitant about using the abbreviation “N-word” in this column because it’s such an ugly term and it’s so beyond offensive it shouldn’t even be allowed. So to know student-athletes were hurling that word at another makes me sick.
I know Ranburne isn’t the only school who has prejudiced students and racists incidents, and I will say the Horseshoe Bend student who posted a Facebook statement about last week’s game updated her post to say “all those involved have been punished accordingly.”
This column isn’t meant to pick on Ranburne specifically even though there are clearly issues that need to be addressed within that community. It does serve to paint a bigger picture, though, about how racism isn’t a solved issue in the United States, even if it happens behind closed doors.
Even if I don’t hear it on a regular basis or I don’t see incidents happening left and right, that doesn’t mean racism still isn’t alive and well. I wish the opposite were true. I’d like to think our society is making progress each and every day, but it is incredibly hard to tell.
Racism isn’t something people should have to deal with anymore. We are years removed from the Civil Rights Movement and thankfully every day, we are moving further and further away from those awful stories my dad saw on the news during his lifetime.
Sports is one way to help us move in the right direction, but it takes young people especially to truly make a change. I hope the student-athletes in our area can learn from this experience and continue to help make the progress many of us seek.