Racial tension looms in the air,
Attacking students like the humidity
On a hot, sticky Georgia day.
Walking without the shelter
Of your own insulated world—
Realizing that you are a part
Of this microcosm of America
Called a university—
The heat of racism
Beats down upon your skin
And slowly boils,
Making the resentment and hatred
Gradually ooze from your pores.
The faster you try and wipe
The perspiration of prejudice away,
The faster the drips of discrimination
Fall from your brow.
After a while,
The stench of ignorance
Inevitably permeates the air.
And with no place to run for cover—
Or salvage even the slightest bit of comfort—
You receive your first lesson in futility.
Hour upon hour—
Attempting to escape
The bigotry based upon bogus foundations.
In your final moments,
You realize that you had the power
To prevail over the ill-founded injustice.
In this bastion of knowledge
You could have opened your narrow mind
And your hardened heart.
With closed eyes.
by Phillip McCullough Jr.
I wrote this poem back in the late 1980s while at the University of Georgia. Higher educational institutions are hotbeds of ideas, feelings and emotions. Sometimes college is a mental crossroads where young minds must confront, hold dear, or reject the values that they learned as children. This is true for people who victimize, and people who are victims. Sometimes these people may be one and the same.