Originally created 12/13/04

Segregation, not 'Ray,' is the issue

For the past several years, I have been comfortable keeping my opinions about public issues private. However, the hoopla appearing in The Chronicle concerning the movie Ray - and its license to say that Ray Charles was banned from Augusta, and Georgia, because of his refusal to perform for a segregated audience at Bell Auditorium - is ridiculous.

The movie did not give the state a black eye. It already had one, caused by those who refused to accept black citizens as equals long after the writing of the U.S. Constitution and The Emancipation Proclamation.

The important point is missing when you continue to emphasize the ban, true or untrue. Any person with a modicum of knowledge knows that Hollywood alters facts all the time, whether they are about Georgia or any other state. Furthermore, it is commonly known that, unless an entertainer has committed a criminal act, it is highly improbable that a state has the right to ban, or will ban, him from its domain simply because he refuses to perform there.

In 1961, blacks were living under segregated laws and have treated like second-class citizens. If anyone gave Georgia a black eye, it was the state itself. I lived during that era, and experienced the life that this state afforded, or did not afford, its black residents. We may debate the ban, but the horrors of the period, living under segregation and Jim Crow, cannot be denied.

... The real issue is not Ray, nor is it Hollywood. It is segregation and Jim Crow. And the point the Chronicle is trying to make has a lot to do about nothing. Whether Ray Charles was banned or not is moot.

Grady Abrams



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