Dedication for Birdie & Jude
This story is dedicated to
Rev. Ronnie Green
Sam Shaw, RIP
In the late 1960’s two young black men, students, successful athletes, and citizens, were taken to a cemetery by eight white men. Ropes were placed around their necks, and their families were threatened if they ever spoke of the incident. Lives and livelihoods were compromised. The two young men were friends. Their final two years of high school were filled with fear and anxiety, according to one of them. However, their faith inspired them to higher callings, and they learned this incident didn’t have to define their adult lives. They moved into roles of mentoring and coaching other young men, fought for their country, preached, and put aside any ill feelings toward the eight men who threatened them in their youth. Most of those men are now deceased.
I regret the way the community treated those young men, the community where they grew up, a community that wanted to watch them on the football field but didn’t want to acknowledge they were human. It was a community I was part of also, one thrilled to the sound of Dixie at school events until November, 2019. In January 2020 the ISD school board called a special meeting to vote Dixie out of the students' experiences. The Board had been petitioned several times to nix Dixie.
The crime the eight white men abhorred, friendships with white girls, threw a panic into a part of the community. It was difficult to accept the duplicity of being honored on the athletic field and threatened as people. “Blacks stood at the gym, Mexicans at the auditorium and the whites were in the middle. It seems I was at school to perform on the field, track, and the basketball court. Nothing else mattered.” This quote by Ronnie Green probably resonates with other young men then, and now.
There was no communication except threats because that was the language used for such situations. That’s no excuse for what happened to those boys. The men who made the threats knew better. They were acting from a position of power and fear. They threatened because they could, and there were no words to define their feelings, only a label, racists. They, too, were just as vulnerable as those boys. However, they were cowards in their failure to attempt a common language. They were supposed to be role models and mentors. They were racists.
To this day whites who attended the very same school will say there was never racism in that community. Some of those eight white men have said it. It could be denial or possibly shame, but whatever it is, it’s what’s wrong with our society. Denying something exists doesn't make it go away. Facing it and owning our part is the cure.
The brief dedication still exists in the novel, Birdie & Jude, however I don't expect someone to buy the novel to be able to read it. Now, it's here in my blog for anyone with a cell phone or computer. My blog about why I couldn't tolerate Dixie is titled, Bobcats Eat Chickens, also here on my web page.
I wish I could say that the incident in February 1969 was the only one I know about, but it's not. On Halloween 2021, another incident occurred in neighboring Woodsboro, Texas. This time the abuse was perpetrated by juveniles. Seems we haven't evolved much. In fact, now it's the children and grandchildren perpetrating the atrocities. There is no telling how many times others have been accosted that we might never know about. What can we do about it. Well, I can only speak for myself, but speak I will. I won't stop.