In 1971, I was a college student at Tuskegee University. Two of my classmates and I decided to drive down to Ozark, Alabama to attend George Wallace’s kick-off run for President. Although, the crowd was not dressed in the garb of the KKK, they might very well have been.
Women carrying six-week-old babies, some younger, some slightly older, dressed in diapers with a Wallace bumper sticker draped around their bodies filled the campaign rally. In smaller print were the words: “Segregation Today, Segregation Tomorrow.”
The babies were everywhere. The racial divide filled the air.
“The babies could not help but soak up the racial hatred through the process of osmosis,” I thought.
We quickly learned that what began as an educational experience on presidential politics had placed us in the middle of a hornet’s nest. We had to be careful not to bump into one of the white women for fear of being accused of sexual assault and strung up on a tree before midnight.
It was the most frightening experience of my life. After Wallace’s speech, the crowd was hooting and hollering in a state of euphoria. This allowed us to slipped out of the football stadium unnoticed. We drove back to campus without stopping for food or to take a comfort break.
The next day, I telephoned my mom in obvious distress. I cried out to her that it would be impossible for Blacks in this society to achieve justice and equality because “White people were breeding the next generation of children to hate me before the children had a chance to know my character.”
Sadly, very little has occured to change my calculus on race relations in the 47 years since that April night of terror. In fact, from Trayvon Martin to Stephon Clark, I’m now firmly convinced Wallace’s retort to Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream: “Segregation today, Segregation Tomorrow,” lives on.
Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at email@example.com