Commentary: Recent events in Virginia bring back the Sixties

Commentary: Recent events in Virginia bring back the Sixties
August 24
02:31 2017

By James B. Ewers Jr.

Guest Columnist

I am a product of the 1960s and grew up in a Southern city.

Segregation, separate but equal, we sat upstairs and they sat downstairs at the movies all happened during my early years. However, it didn’t stop us from believing and achieving.

Men with hoods and white robes, German shepherd dogs handled by the police all were a part of my young life. I along with my friends didn’t have to watch television because we had an up-close and personal view.

I grew up in the East Winston section of Winston-Salem. It was rare that we saw people of another race on our side of town, Yes, we as black people had a “side” of town.

My elementary school was all black except for the nuns who were our teachers. They were white. In fact, the nuns lived in a convent near the school.

They lived, from my perspective, humble lives. I never heard one report about them being harmed in any way.

Now, many years later, my friends and I discuss our elementary school experience. Some suggest that the nuns were not totally for us. I didn’t see it and I didn’t feel it.

Kids, I believe, can see through teachers. They know the good ones from the bad ones. Our teachers wanted us to do our best and to be successful.

My city, like all Southern cities, had a deep racial divide. Skin color made all the difference.

If you were black, get back. If you were white, you were all right. Race made a difference in the Sixties. Unfortunately, rioting and killings were a part of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Ku Klux Klan was the predecessors of the white supremacy movement and the Aryan Nation. You didn’t hear anything about white nationalists. It was just the Ku Klux Klan.

The Klan served up hate and vitriol against people who looked like me. White people who joined our cause like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were killed because they knew segregation and racial hatred were wrong.

We as a country have lived through some evil and sinister times. Our resolve to be the United States of America has caused us great pain and sacrifice. Blood was shed and lives were lost by both black people and white people.

Now, our determination to be the United States of America is being challenged once again.

On Saturday, Aug. 12, a group of pro-white nationalist protesters descended upon the college town of Charlottesville, Virginia. Their purpose in being there was to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.

Their behavior and antics were crude, rude and violent.

The days of white supremacy groups thinking they can have their way in America are over.

Some would opine that the current sitting President of the United States of America has been the subtle and sometimes brazen catalyst for this racial and civil unrest. I agree with this opinion.

Three are dead so far, including one innocent bystander. James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old from Ohio, caused the death of Heather Heyer. He rammed his car into a large group of people on Saturday. It has since been learned that Fields was supportive of this pro-white nationalist protest group.

Felicia Correa, a friend of Heather Heyer’s, created a Go Fund Me account and raised $225,000 on behalf of the victim’s mother.

The city of Charlottesville, Virginia, is reeling from this event. It will take time for the city to heal. One city official, Maurice Jones, said there will be a lot of discussion around the dinner table about what happened on Saturday.

The 45th president came out with less than a convincing statement about Saturday’s tragedy. It was half-hearted, at best. Leaders on both sides of the aisle lashed out at his lukewarm statement.

It was not until Monday, Aug. 14 that he came out with an appropriate statement decrying the events of Saturday.

Many of his constituents in that crowd were malcontents and racial haters. They voted for him. You know it and I know it. And, of course he knows it.

America, we cannot go back to segregated views and thinking. We cannot let one man and a small group of people strip us of our core beliefs about America.

Remember, “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

James B. Ewers  Jr. Ed.D. is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University. He is a retired college administrator.  He can be reached at

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