When people think of racism, most usually think of a member of one race discriminating against a member of another. But what does it mean when victim and perpetrator are the same race?
The first case to challenge the concept of same-race discrimination, Wilson v. McClure, reached a Federal court jury on Sept. 11, 2000.
“The Eighth Round,” written in 2009 by Zeke Wilson, a former heavyweight boxer, boxing promoter and Marine born on St. Helena Island, chronicles the events leading up to his court battle. Now, Wilson wants to take the story of his precedent-setting case to the silver screen.
Wilson won his case against a Massachusetts state sports commission headed by a black chairman, Wilbert McClure, who charged Wilson $10,000 to host his boxing events, double that of his white counterparts.
He was awarded $160,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, forever changing boxing legislation and setting the precedent for same-race discrimination.
Traveling between the United Kingdom and the U.S., Wilson has been holding casting calls, working with producers and scouting locations for his feature-length film, which he hopes will spark discussion and inspire others to stand up for what they believe in and fight to have their voices heard.
“We all have our ghosts, we all do our own fighting,” said Wilson, who had to convince an all-white jury that his case was discrimination. “If this case that I won can help somebody over the hump with something they’re trying to do in life, that’ll be a good thing.”
It took eight days for the jury to come to a unanimous decision, each day representing a “round” in the title of the book and film.
Wilson started training to become a boxer when he was 14, drawing inspiration from boxing legends and a dash of hometown pride.
“I remember watching Mohammed Ali getting ready to fight Joe Frazier on March 8, 1971, in Madison Square Garden,” said Wilson. “When I saw that Joe Frazier was from Beaufort, all of a sudden I wanted to be a fighter.”
It wasn’t long after that Wilson took his first victory in Savannah, kicking off the career that netted him accolades such as the Golden Gloves award and entry into the Bareknuckle Boxing Hall of Fame.
Wilson will be holding a casting call for his movie, as well as a book signing, from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 9 at St. Helena Branch Library, 1025 Sea Island Pkwy. in Beaufort.
For more information about Wilson and “The Eighth Round,” as well as the latest news for casting calls and book signings, visit www.theeighthround.com.
Sam Posthuma of Bluffton is a freelance writer and production assistant for The Bluffton Sun.