As we are observing Black History Month, people across our country are reflecting on the deep relationships that we have had with people of African descent.
While we would like to think that "the race issue" is no longer with us, recent controversies such as people calling the Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman a "thug" suggest otherwise. It is my hope that what I write will help you sincerely reflect on the significance of such events.
The 2006 movie "Glory Road" follows the ambitious coach, Don Haskins, as he struggles to put together a new Texas Western basketball program capable of winning an NCAA national title. Starting off with a low budget and virtually no talented or ambitious players, he soon picks up many talented black players along the way.
In 1966, Haskins finishes a nearly flawless season by starting only black players in the NCAA title game against top-ranked University of Kentucky, which was coached by the legendary Adolph Rupp and had an all-white team. Starting an all-black lineup was virtually unthinkable at the time, but it helped show the world that blacks were just as intelligent and capable as whites.
Harry Flournoy, who is from Gary, Ind., was one of the black athletes who played for Texas Western that season. On Feb. 7, he spoke at Fresno State after a showing of "Glory Road" at the Leon S. Peters Auditorium.
Flournoy talked about which aspects of the film were "creative interpretations," and more importantly, why he thought the film more or less accurately depicted the racial hatred and distrust that blacks were subjected to by many white Americans.
I felt the film gave intense life to how oppressed black players like Flournoy were in their everyday activities. For example, although a hotel scene with the racial epithets written in blood on the walls never actually happened, Flournoy noted that "it easily could have." The diner bathroom scene also showed the vulnerability that the black players faced — especially for upsetting the expectations that many whites had for black players.
Flournoy also stressed that, by the end of the first game, when Haskins started a then-unprecedented three blacks, the team realized that it was fighting for something far more important than basketball victories.
What stuck deepest with me from Flournoy's lecture was his warning that when it comes to race, ethnicity, religious creeds and so forth, "The less you understand, the more you fear."
As a white male who has recently studied race and ethnicity quite a bit throughout my undergraduate studies, I can attest to the truth of this statement. Through these courses, I have been forced to interact only with students and professors from very different backgrounds than my own, and have discussed related issues and the roles they play in these people's lives inside and outside of class.
Through these limited experiences, I have found myself becoming much more comfortable with people from sometimes radically different backgrounds, values and beliefs than my own.
As for the film, one scene seems to have burned into me: At one point, three white teammates are invited to an all-black party by their black teammates, and learn to be comfortable and relax and have fun with them like they would at any all-white party. (This experience seems to help them break the color barrier and develop true friendships, which Flournoy alluded to when he told us about the real diner experience where his white teammate asked the owner if all his friends could eat there with him.)
I cannot help but wonder: If all whites could have an experience like this, would they be friendlier toward blacks as fellow brothers and sisters?
While we would like to think that "the race issue" is no longer with us, recent controversies such as people calling the Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman a "thug" suggest otherwise.
Travis Webb is a student at Fresno State.