By Rickey Hampton, Editor and Founder of The African-American Athlete
We owe the men, women, and children who fought and won the battle for equal rights and desegregation so much. We stand on their shoulders each and every day. If you are a black person working in practically every human endeavor in America, there was a black man and woman that paved the way for you.
However, there was one thing the black warriors forgot when they sat at ‘White Only’ lunch counters, jumped in ‘White Only’ swimming pools, and prayed outside of ‘White Only’ restaurants.
As black people, we forgot to consider that even if the law said we had the right to frequent those places, by going there we were enriching the people who hated us, and taking money from the pockets of those in the black community who had served us loyally and fairly for decades.
We forgot in our victory that we also gained the option to cease to give money to those of all ethnicities who exploited, abused and mistreated us.
We forgot those who had previously refused to service us at all, would take our money and still hate us.
Only recently did I learn about the ‘Swim In’ protest that took place on June 17, 1964, which happened to be my 7th birthday. On that date James Brock, the manager of the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Fla., threw acid in the pool when he discovered blacks swimming in the pool as part of a protest.
The protest started when Dr. Martin Luther King was turned away from the motel a few days earlier. The motel had a ‘Whites Only’ policy for its room and its pool. However, King had a plan to desegregate, at least momentarily, the motel.
When a couple of white supporters of the movement rented a room, they invited blacks to go swimming in the pool. They were able to sneak into the pool while a group of protesters held vigil at the front of the motel.
Now, consider the evil in that man’s heart to douse the pool with acid, which according to reports was Muriatic acid, which is used to clean pools. And while it was not enough to cause anyone harm, I can only assume that Brock had malice in his heart when he poured the substance into the water.
Oh, and by the way, Brock was known to be a great guy, who was active with his local church. (Brock sounds like some of these evangelicals who support the misogynist, racist, president today.)
Anyway, I totally understand why courageous black people who fought against that injustice wanted to go to places they were once banned. I get it, I get it, I get.
They were fighting against the very way of life the racist president who currently lives at the White House, would like to see us get back to. When you hear that fool talk about ‘Making America Great Again’, it is precisely those times he is talking about.
Because if you talk to most black people 60 years and older, they are gonna tell you America ain’t never been great for them
As much as we owe the warriors for the rights and privileges we enjoy today as black people_ as flawed as they may be _ the civil rights warriors made a big mistake.
After breaking down those barriers, desegregating restaurants, buses, schools, and hospitals, they forgot the people, businesses and institutions that served us when no one else would.
When I look at the picture of Brock throwing acid into the swimming pool, I think: “Why in the hell would I want to give him my money? This man doesn’t give a damn about me. He was willing to poison me. Why stay in his motel, eat his food (that he probably spit in) and enrich him?”
That is the mistake we made, over, and over, and over again. We stopped frequenting the businesses and institutions that were always there for us, and went over and gave our money to white people who didn’t want us, and even hated us.
As black people it would have been better to know that we could go there if we wanted to, and even if we needed to (because our business and institutions often lacked resources), but we chose not to go because they hated us.
So in essence we as black people won the battle, and lost the war.
We unintentionally punished the black businesses and institutions that were always there for us, by giving our money to the James Brocks of the world.
And doing that assisted the likes of him in metaphorically pouring acid in all aspects of our lives. It’s a mistake that haunts us even today.