Lessons of racial history should not be forgotten

By Clyde Davis: Local columnist

I do not remember being conscious or aware that Gary Reynolds was African American.

I remember being fully aware that he was the football middle guard on whom I relied to tie things up on the line so that I, as the linebacker behind him, could read the play and zero in on the running or passing action.

I remember realizing that either my mom or his mom would pretend mock panic when we came home after practice, knowing that the two of us together could “eat them out of house and home,” as the saying goes.

I remember that when his dad took us to an Ohio State football game, and we sat in the alumni seating section, because that was where Mr. Reynolds had gone to college, there was no distinction in the way we were treated, nor expected to behave.

The same was true when my father took us to a Grove City College game. When you were with someone else’s father, at least in those days, it was unconscionable that you would even think of “acting up,” as the colloquialism goes.

I remember that, the l.ast time I had contact with Gary, via a random email, he was living in south Florida, working as a registered nurse, which had been his high school dream.

But I do not remember being aware of Gary as an African American, perhaps because it didn’t matter; it was those other issues that mattered. He had my back on the field, or off. Our moms fed us both. Our dads took us places.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, we were perhaps less aware that, a few years previously, a man named Martin Luther King Jr. put his life on the line, and lost it, battling to attain civil rights for all.

We were only vaguely aware, not having any southern relatives of whom we knew, that a few hours away, in Virginia for example, race was a hot issue, even though Dr. King’s assassination was several years in the past.

There is a small kernel of fear in the writing of this column. The kernel is that, in the face of hard times, economic challenges, and an increasing desire to point fingers, that we will regress, rather than progress.

To use terms that would reflect Dr. King, the preacher, that we will “backslide.”

The election of our first African American president has brought out from the moral cellar of our nation a hidden racism, which is evident in the jokes, the emails, the snide comments. The light shines not just on black-white relations, but on all racial facings.

We cannot be as innocent as high school kids were, at least as we were in the ’70s, at least as those teammates of mine were.

The One who guided Dr. King’s actions, however, told his followers to be “as wise as serpents, but as innocent as doves.” Not bad advice, to steer us through times that challenge us not to point fingers of fear.