Book Excerpt

Excerpt taken from Chapter 17 of A Reason for Being: The Syl Harris Story:

What had begun to take place was an organized movement that would, before the time it was over, involve almost every phase of the criminal justice system in Racine. The impact became so severe that it reached the level of the Supreme Court. Once I became entangled in this web of clearly pronounced racism, my whole life would be due for a complete change. This change would be the only means of escape from a well designed vise and I felt myself being squeezed between its jaws until every breath of life was being extracted from my body.

It was January 8, 1974, 7:45 p.m. The snow was falling so thick that I could barely see the cars in front of me. The roads were so slick that I could feel my car slide each time I would attempt to put it in motion. I was on my way home from my regular Tuesday night basketball game. The car in front of me came to a sudden halt. I could barely see, because of the blowing snow that was whirling and flurrying about. I leaned forward in my seat to get a better view of what had happened in front of me. Suddenly, I saw three white men standing in front of vehicle ahead of me. I attempted to peer inside of that vehicle to see who was inside. I could see the figure of what appeared to be one man. I sat there for about three minutes and observed the three men who would not get out of the street and allow the car ahead of me to proceed. I opened my door and stood halfway out of my car. I looked back and there was a long line of traffic that was also being delayed.

I yelled at the three men. “Hey, what’s going on up there!”

“None of your goddamn business nigger!” they yelled.

I then yelled back at them “You’d better get your asses out of the street before I arrest you for interfering with traffic.”

The men moved from in front of the vehicle ahead of me and approached my car.

“Who do you think you are you black motherfucker” They said.

I replied “I’m a police officer.” I took out my badge and held it at arms length for them to see.

“You ain’t shit, nigger; I’ll blow your brains out,” the biggest man said. Before I could say another word, I was looking down the barrel of a gun…


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