I Was Mad, Real Mad

Rashid Shabazz’s story written by River Lin

Rashid is 73 years old

 

Mad. Real mad. That’s how I feel about racism.

 

I’ve been facing racism since the day I was born. Since I was a baby, every day, racism was just a part of life. Bad, unfair things happen to you over and over again and it makes you mad. Real mad.

 

One time I was at the fair trying to win a Teddy Bear for a little baby. Down to my last quarter and the man in the booth told me, “You get the best 2 out of 3 and you can have any Teddy Bear you want.” I said, “OK, I can do that.” I got the first one, missed the second one, and then I got the third one.

 

That man said no. He said I had to get the first 2 out of 3.”

 

I was mad. Real mad.

 

We argued. Klansmen came around the corner. Crowbars, chains, sledgehammers. All this over a Teddy Bear. Can you believe that? I was thinking how to jump them all: One foot on this guy, another foot on that guy, one hand here, my other hand there.

Then 10 black men from the community came. One of them said to me, “What’s happenin’ Lil’ Ticket?” Yeah, he called me “Lil’ Ticket.” Then he said to the clansmen, “What you gonna do with them toys you got?” I liked it that he called them weapons “toys.”

 

But I was mad. Real mad.

 

Another time, the Klan set up a table to recruit for new members. Teaching hate. Recruiting so they can do more harm to us.

 

I was mad. Real mad.

 

We had a confrontation, and one of those guys had a gun. You can’t bring no gun to the fair! And there were all these little kids standing around! Everyone started yelling, “He got a gun! He got a gun!” The police, sheriff, all them came running. That man started shaking, just shaking. I thought he might shoot himself in the leg the way he was shaking.

 

I was mad. Real mad.

 

I was one of the greatest basketball players in the country. In the world, really. But racism dogged me so much. By the time I got to high school, I didn’t want it no more.

 

I was just mad. Real mad.

 

But I was a good player, so they wanted me to be a Bear Cat. I said no, but they got me. See, we had a race riot in the high school and I was right there in the middle of it. Then they gave me an ultimatum: play ball or get kicked out of school.

 

Oh, no, no. I couldn’t face my mother if I got kicked out of school. So I signed up.

 

But I was mad. Real mad.

 

In practice I could out-run, out-jump and out-shoot those guys, but in the games, they got all the playtime.

 

I was mad. Real mad.

 

Then tournament time came. When we got to the sectionals, we had to play two games in one day, and those white guys, they weren’t up to it, so they had to put me in the game.

 

And I got down!

 

But you know what? After that, they had to be careful with me because they didn’t want a black hero. No, they’d rather lose with a white hero than to win with a black hero.

 

I was mad. Real mad.

 

And another thing: they only like you when you on the court. During the season, they treat you real good, but after that, they dog you. I went from a thousand people calling out my name and cheering me, to can’t even go across the street and have a Coca-Cola or an ice cream cone with them.

 

I was mad. Real mad.

 

When I was a senior, the team was on the road, and you know, like teams do, there was some hazing. I didn’t do no hazing, but I know who did it. And nothing happened to those white players who did it. But all four of us black players got kicked off the team for hazing. It was my last year and I was nominated to be Mr. Basketball. That was the real threat; they didn’t want me to be Mr. Basketball.

We didn’t do no hazing, but we got kicked off the team. I know they just couldn’t have a black Mr. Basketball from Muncie. No title. No scholarships.

 

I was mad. Real mad.

 

My anger took me down.

Anger raging inside, my heart was looking for something better.

 

Religion gave me a white Jesus.

 

Elijah Mohammed established the Nation of Islam. He preached that the white man was the devil. Seeing how the white man acted, I heard him. I was ready to listen.

 

My wife had cancer and she passed. The doctors said my baby had it too, and that he needed surgery. I didn’t trust them. I read a book by Elijah Mohammed: How to Eat to Live, and it gave me an alternative.

 

I believed.

 

I was playing professional basketball by then, but I gave that up so I could care for my son. I got remarried and my wife and I read the Quran to my son every day. Every day. He never had the surgery. He’s a grown man now. Healthy. Smart. I’m proud of him.

 

I believed.

 

Elijah Mohammed made black people look at ourselves. He prepared us for Islam. After he died, his son, Imam W. Deen Mohammad, took over as the leader of the Nation of Islam. He preached from the Quran. He preached that there is no superiority among humans, not white over black, and not black over white; not Arab over non-Arab, nor non-Arab over Arab. I became a Muslim.

 

I believed.

 

Racism is still here. It looks different from how it used to look, but inside, it’s still racism. And sometimes, I’m still mad. Real mad.

 

But today, I’m different because I believe. Oh yes, I believe.