The following column by Kays Gary was originally published by The Charlotte Obsserver, February 17, 1965.
The boy was blind and he was having some difficulty feeling his way through the school cafeteria tables, and that is the way the trouble started.
Behind him came a sighted youth, imitating the other’s confusion with eyes closed, arms outstretched and walking stiffly.
Others, tempers flaming a the indignity, gave the mimic a going-over. He got his lumps.
Somehow, it made us a little sick.
Despite his incredible behavior, we felt almost as sorry for the mimic as for the blind youngster.
Certainly, he demonstrated that he is more in need of guidance and adjustment than the boy who lives in darkness. Certainly his cry for help in that revolting pantomime was far louder than that of hands feeling their way.
And so, understanding the righteous retribution of witnesses, we cannot applaud.
We wonder, instead, what now will be the way of the mimic? Who will care?
Slashing even deeper into human dignity was the Chapel Hill incident where a handful of students hurled the epithet “nigger” at a visiting Nigerian intellectual and “nigger-lover” at his white companion. The Nigerian’s native dress was reportedly scoffed at as “a bathrobe.”
Certainly such an assault could spring from no university influence, any background of tolerance or any acquaintance with human ethic, even apart from religion.
One easily understands the effect on the mind of the offended Nigerian, ultimately by his countrymen and by enemies of America who will proudly offer this evidence of barbarism as parcel of a national hypocrisy.
But the primary concern is what has happened to young men who perpetrated this incident and what will happen to them. Who will care and how will they show it?
Public retribution is poor ransom to exact from warped souls.
And when seeing eyes are blinded to the common dignity of man we all own a share of the darkness.
And the black heart, encased in skin black or white, is cause for greatest grief.