In 1970 a black man named Henry “Dickie” Marrow was murdered in Oxford, North Carolina, allegedly for making a sexual comment to a white woman. Despite eyewitness testimonies, the killers, who were known to be Klansmen, were acquitted by an all-white jury. Vernon Tyson, a United Methodist minister, was one of two white people who attended Marrow’s funeral. His son Timothy was 10.
We live in a new racial time in the U.S., and we still lack adequate language to describe it and visions to inspire us. Forty years after the civil rights movement, fresh voices are desperately needed.
On a summer day in 1970, ten-year-old Tim Tyson was playing with his neighborhood friend, Gerald Teel, when Gerald whispered to him, “Daddy and Roger and ’em shot a nigger.” That murder set in motion a racial conflict that rocked the small tobacco town of Oxford, North Carolina.
When American administrator L. Paul Bremer III reported to Washington that the Iraqi people were not quite ready for reform, my mind flashed back to one of those British movies set in the 19th century. Typical plot: a colonial governor confronts the powerful nabob who won’t play the game the way they teach it at Oxford. He sends an urgent message to London: General election too risky. Stop.
It’s high summer, and those of us who measure time by the mystical rhythms of baseball are deeply immersed in the game. We have been talking lately about the Sammy Sosa affair. The Chicago Cubs slugger embarrassed himself by getting caught—on television no less—using a “corked” bat.