man001049. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada. http://n2t.net/ark:/62930/d1kp7z56d
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THE CLOSED OPEN BY ROOSEVELT FITZGERALD
Sometime near the end of the Spring Semester of 1990, I sat at my usual table in the Student Union at UNLV and had lunch; tuna sandwich, chips and a diet soda. It was one of those days when there was no rush and if there had been I wasn't in it. The table was next to the window looking out toward Maryland Parkway and it was the very last table near the back wall. I've preferred sitting with my back to the wall ever since my childhood days of emulating my cowboy heroes. Everything that took place took place within my line of vision and, as a practicing paranoid, that qualified the table as perfect.
I had been there about half-an-hour and was half-way through the second half of my sandwich when it started. A fire engine red Accura automobile pulled up and parked directly across from where I was seated. There were two occupants; both young men—one black and one white. The former was the driver. They sat there for a few minutes and then the windows went down and the black young man exited. He brought with him a golf club. He walked over to a grassy knoll between the parking area and the Humanities Building and began to swing the club as though he was teeing-off (I heard that term in the "Ben Hogan Story" starring Glenn Ford).
I watched him repeat the activity several times and, after a while, the white young man walked over and they talked and I could tell that he was instructing him on his swing. Shortly thereafter two young women came out of the building and the four of them drove away.
I watched the absence which their departure had caused and my mind rolled back to an earlier time--a time which some refer to as "the good ol' days." In my home town we had golf courses but black people were not allowed on them except as caddies. I tried caddying once and I was called "black bastard," "nigger," "coon," and "tar baby" before and after almost every
stroke on every hole. It didn't matter whether it was a good shot or a poor shot, I was still called some dirty name. "Look at that ball go--just like a nigger through a hen house." "That ball rolled crookeder than the way a coon walks down main street on Saturday evening." What can you do when you're just a kid? I stuck it out for the remainder of the day but I had decided by the second hole that I didn't need that. I decided that fifty cents wasn't worth that much--no amount is. I never learned to play the game and I really don't understand it. Even today, I rarely ever think about it until I am invited to go play a round or two.
Its an awful feeling one has when invited to do something like that. What do you say? "Not this time"? How many times can you say that? How do you tell someone that you never play the game when you're not sure that they won't follow up with; "Why not?" How do you tell them that where you come from and at the time you were growing up in that place that "the man" wouldn't let you play? How do you tell a friend, who happens to be white, such things as thses without fear of the revelation somehow bruising the friendship or causing an uneasiness? You cannot. You cannot so you keep coming up with all sorts of creative excuses. Still, you wish you knew how to play if for no other reason than your not playing being a matter of choice.
I thought about that young man swinging a golf club and unconsciously I thought: "My, the times they are a'changing." But are they really? I can remember, as I've told you before, when the U.S. Open was closed to us. It is not something that I dwell on but, every so often,something will happen which brings it all into vivid focus and I am saddened by it because, each time, I am made to realize that in the minds and hearts of some, who define themselves as decent, I, and others like me, am the scum of the Earth.
Who are these people who think God has selected them over all others? What arrogance^-that merely by their being they are superior. I'll tell you who some of them are; Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Gary Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Steve Ballesteros, Chi Chi Rodriquez, Charles Coody, Craig Perry, Wayne Grady, Fred Couples, Gil Morgan, Bill Britton, Billy Mayfair, Loren Roberts, Chip Beck, Don Pooley, Tim Simpson, Mark McNulty, Payne Stewart and all of the others who have played the PGA over the years, aware of the discriminatory practices of the country clubs where they play and choosing to turn blind eyes to it. After all, it did them no harm--as far as they could see. In their minds it only hurt black people and other minorities and that was and is acceptable. Sure, I know Chi Chi has been mentioned and, of course, there is Lee Trevino. Rodriquez has been the links buffoon and anyone of Mexican descent, in my opinion, who allows himself to be called the "Merry Mex" does not deserve to be considered as Mexican any more than a black person who allows himself to be called "Slick."
A few weeks ago when the PGA Tournament was held at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Alabama, the President of the Board told us and the nation and the world that there were no black members and that the Club would not be pressured into admitting any. Why would he say a thing like that? What was he attempting to prove? Blacks on the PGA tour, in Birmingham and in other places knew there were not any black member of the Club. Integrating
golf courses have not been very high on priority lists. Further, the iniating fees and membership dues are astronomical and we know why. Look at anything that costs a lot and you can pretty much figure that it is so just to put it out of reach of some people.
We've already read and have seen on television much on this subject. I don't really know why I'm writing about it at this late date. Perhaps it has something to do with my own arrogance. I don't think very much of any
achievement made by anyone in anything when everyone has not been allowed the
opportunity to compete. I consider Babe Ruth's accomplishments on the diamond as zero because there were a lot of black not allowed to compete. Sure, they might not have beat him out but we'll never know. I don't think much of tennis champs, swimming champs, skiing champs, and all of those other champs who have not had to compete against some of everybody--especially us. I'm not impressed at all by hardly anything that has been accomplished with exclusion.
Look around. Look at where we are—at the accomplishments we've made in spite of all the obstacles of prejudice and discrimination. Imagine where we could be if we hadn't had to and continue to have to waste so much of our time, thinking and energy dealing with the white man's insecurity which is manifested by prejudice and discrimination. Everywhere we've gotten access, we've excelled. Think about it. Everywhere.
If the only way one can win or be successful is by removing a good part of the competition, then whatever triumphs they might attain are hollow. On the other hand, if the only way one can win or be successful is by taking on all comers and all obstacles with all of the handicaps and still come out bruised but unbowed and, on top of that, victorious, then you begin to