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CULTURE SHOCK IN DIXIELAND
William F. Reed
August 12, 1991
Blacks now dominate the once lily-white Southeastern Conference
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August 12, 1991

Culture Shock In Dixieland

Blacks now dominate the once lily-white Southeastern Conference

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The response to Mullins's injury was encouraging in many aspects, but it was an isolated incident. What happens to the black athlete in the Deep South after the games are over and the cheering has stopped? Says Bill Curry, the football coach at Kentucky and the former head coach at Georgia Tech and Alabama, "We're not going to let [black athletes] come in, stay four years and not get a diploma. I think the big question about [blacks in] the SEC or anyplace else is, 'Where are they now?' Some of my former [black] players at Tech and Alabama have jobs as executives at Procter & Gamble, Xerox, Du Pont, Boeing and IBM. I'm really proud of these guys. But we still have a long way to go, because there are 300 years of injustice to be corrected, and heaven knows there's still a lot of prejudice and bigotry out there."

As for Perry Wallace, who now views the SEC from a distance both geographic and historic, he can only smile and shake his head whenever he happens to catch an SEC basketball game on TV and sees nine or 10 blacks on the floor. "It's more than interesting," he says. "It's amazing—a different world. I have to stop and think, 'That's the SEC?' I'll always remember the last game I played, at Mississippi when I was a senior. You could still hear some things coming out of the stands, but by that time the overwhelming ugliness and massive intimidation was gone. I had a good game, and after it was over, as we were walking off the floor, I just smiled up at the people, including the ones who had yelled things at me. The smile said, 'You didn't get me, and now I'm gone.' I remember that feeling very, very well."

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