When I grew up in Nashville in the 1950s, it was always a treat to watch the minor league baseball team, the Nashville Vols. All these years later, one moment remains with me.
The Vols played in a unique ballpark called Sulphur Dell. Most of the seating from first to third base was covered by a roof; there was opened bleacher seating down the right and left field lines. It was a very hot summer afternoon, and I was walking down an aisle that separated the first base seating from the right field seating. I turned and noticed for the first time that all the white people were sitting in the shade under the covered section and all the blacks were sitting in the hot sun in the bleachers. The angle of the sun created a shadow that drew a stark line between the covered first-base seats and the bleachers.
Being a young kid, I couldn’t understand why the blacks didn’t just move over and sit in the shade. It wasn’t until later that I learned that they weren’t allowed to sit there. They were forced to sit in the hot sun.
In the ensuing years, I believed that race relations were getting better. Then in 2013 the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the purveyors of bigotry and hate came out of their covered seats. They started changing state laws to disenfranchise voters and suppress voting rights.
Now, they march under the Nazi banner near a major university, even though many Americans gave their lives to defeat the regime that served under that banner. It seems that these people have been given a voice and encouragement to be even bolder. They have determined that certain people in our country should be minimized and are expendable.
My beloved Vols no longer exist, and Sulphur Dell was torn down in 1969, and if we don’t stand united against bigotry and hate, there will be more and more people who are forced to sit in the hot sun.