4th 2023 Post – Sitting Down? No – You Must Stand Up

Blog Posts where Race is an Aspect of the Themes

Uluru - Ayers Rock

At the Jesuit Catholic University I went to from 1969-1973, an issue arose regarding Black Civil Rights. In 1972 and 1973, a large group of Black students attended the school’s Division One home basketball games. When doing so, they sat as a group at center court – courtside – and remained seated during the National Anthem. This was done as a form of protest regarding many racial justice issues of the day. The seated Black students, exercising their First Amendment rights, infuriated alumni and many people who attended the game. Most of the cheerleaders for the school were Black. To avoid the controversy of sitting down in a school cheerleading uniform, the cheerleaders remained outside the arena in the hall until the National Anthem was over. They then ran onto the court doing gymnastics and leading cheers following the Anthem.

This became a national issue for alumni and school athletic boosters. The Black cheerleaders were ordered by the administration to stand in front of their seated Black peers for the Anthem or they would no longer be allowed to represent the school in any capacity as cheerleaders.

This was not tolerable, so the cheerleaders were likely going to quit. A small group of us organized, wrote a handout explaining why the administration’s order was wrong, and we handed it out to all attendees at the next home game.

Two of us, who were white, participated. At the game we sat alone under one of the baskets, holding signs of protest after handing out flyers. Much vitriol was expressed as we handed out flyers.

The next night when I got out of my small used Volkswagen to go into a home I rented with others, a car pulled up slowly and the driver stopped two feet from me and aimed a pistol at my head. He called me a “N” lover. I immediately rolled down behind his car and jumped up – ran and rolled across the long side porch and went into the house. I discussed with my roommates, but let it go.

The next night I pulled up and parked in a similar spot. I got out and looked around and from about six car lengths back a car put lights on and floored it and came at me full speed, clearly attempting to run me over. I barely got to the other side of the street and ran inside.

This time, I called the cops. They came. I told them the stories of that night and the night before. They listened. They then said, “You should leave town.” I said, “What?” – in disbelief. They said, “We and others in town know who you are – you should leave town.”

I did. Returned two weeks later. Finished School. Obtained my diploma, but I did not attend graduation.