DIALOGUE AND DISCUSSION ON EDUCATION, ENVIRONMENT AND RACE
Willie Jones was a Negro teenager I knew back in Jr. High. He happened to be one of the darkest humans I ever had the pleasure of seeing and meeting. He has the whitest teeth and his dark hue added to their brilliance. He had a wonderful personality and was a kind young man. I liked Willie. He was kind and pleasant. I also noticed he was a little stand offish and I didn’t know why. I would soon find out.
I was attending Lincoln Jr High in 1967, arguably one of the toughest middle schools in the state. The list of atrocities I personally witnessed are so vast I just don’t have time to list them. To say I was traumatized after attending there is understatement.
Well, one day I when school let out I was walking this girl home. We were walking down Orleans towards Parkway and as we approached Southside Park I could hear a commotion coming from the park. There was a small hill at that section of the park and while we could hear the commotion we could not determine exactly what it was.
So we walked up the hill and there before my eyes I witnessed one of the most heinous and brutal acts I have ever seen and trust me I have seen plenty. It wasn’t just what was happening, a fight, but the intensity of it and what I would later discover, the cause of it, that made it so sickening.
There in the middle of that circle of teenagers was Willie Jones trying to fight off about 5 other boys. They were jumping on him, taking turns tagging him. By that I mean swinging hard blows and knocking him down. Finally he fell and like sharks attacking a wounded prey they lit in on him stomping and kicking him. I could here above the roar of voices, “kill that nigger”, “fuck him up” and quite a few people from the very large crowd were co signing the beating to this child. Over all of the screaming and beating I could hear one particularly loud voice saying, “I hate this black motherfucker.” As I looked for the owner of that voice I discovered it was coming from George Suggs. I had grown up with George, a crazy ass kid by all standards. He was as large or larger than most full grown men and could throw the “Lincoln Special” that being a football 100 yards.
I forced my way into the crowd and started screaming at George to stop and that was when I saw it. George stomped Willie’s head so hard it made an indention into the ground. Some of the others saw it also and commented on it. It was a brutal scene to watch. I got George’s attention and I started begging for him to stop knowing that if he stopped the rest would probably follow suit. I knew george well and his entire family. We had been friends since first grade. I also knew he was brutal and in fact had once slapped me in the face with a basketball, a mistake he never made again. I knew I couldn’t whip George one on one, but I threw bricks and rocks at him everyday for about 2 weeks in a row until finally he came to my house one summer morning and we made friends.
So George looks me in the eyes as I am screaming at him and crying and begging him to stop and he says, “Mann”, my nick name, “I hate this black motherfucker” with an emphasis on black, and I say, “George look at you nigga!” He pauses and just like that he stops as if nothing had happened and he and his crew just walked away laughing. The really odd part was George was as black as Willie. A few of us knelt beside Willie who was balled up in a fetal position just whimpering. I touched him and asked him if was ok and he cussed and lashed out at us screaming for us to leave him alone. Not knowing what else to do I did.
I walked away and looked back as the few others left him lying there all alone still balled up. The girl thanked me for intervening, but I didn’t feel like any hero. I felt confused. What had I just witnessed? What was that about? I didn’t know anything about self hate at least consciously, but I did know one thing I didn’t want to be black by any means. I am mid brown colored and if being black drew that kind of hatred I knew never in life would I wish that on anybody. Those were the lessons of a child. I have a contrasting story that follows. There was no happy ending. Willie continued to be tormented as were scores of other dark skinned kids unless they were crazy acting then people would leave them alone.
The Flip Side of Being Black
It was the fall of 1965, I was in 7th grade at Lincoln Jr. High. Lincoln had a huge student population and it was fed by the Lauderdale Subdivision a real tough part of town where you could get whatever you asked for up to and including a real good ass whipping.
I had attended Georgia Ave. Elementary that had been fed my three major housing projects so most of my friends went on to Porter Jr. High, another real tough school, but they seemed to have more pride for some reason. I was slated to go to Porter, but my best friend Ronnie, was going to Lincoln and we had planned to reunite every since we parted back in second grade. Close to the end of the first semester I notice this gorgeous new girl and to my surprise she look like a real white girl.
Please understand that up until I joined the Navy in 1971 I had never had a conversation with any so called white person near my age ever. I didn’t miss it because I had everything I thought I wanted in my community. I didn’t hate “white folks” as many of my peers claimed they did, nor was I afraid of them. I just didn’t personally know that much about them. Well this pretty young lady, Bobbie had long golden hair, and blue eyes and a nice figure to go along with it. The buzz was all over the school. “Did you see that white bitch, who does she think she is”, were just some of the things I heard the girls saying. I will not repeat what some of the guys said.
I began to wonder how Bobbie was going to make it the rest of the day let alone the rest of the school year. You see there was growing resentment and then the threats started. “I’m gon whup that hoe’s ass”, one girl named Sharon boasted. Mind you this was just Bobbie’s first day at school and the entire school was blazing with gossip.
Poor Bobbie apparently made it home safely and I think someone picked her up, but here comes the good part. By the next day tempers were so heated that the school administrators, the venerable Oliver Johnson, our principal and the hated Horace King, our assistant principal, called a full assembly the very next morning.
They announced that we had a new student and that she was indeed a negro and they let it be know that serious repercussions would follow if anyone laid a hand on her or even made fun of her. I was relieved to hear that because I had feared for her safety. On the way out of the assembly I heard a girl say something that has stuck with me all these years. She said, “Well I don’t care if the how is a nigger I gonna kick her ass anyway because the bitch thinks she’s pretty.” She didn’t, kick her ass that is, but I have often wondered what drove that behavior, what inspired her to feel that way?
To my knowledge no one jumped on Bobbie that year and later in 10th grade we became pretty good friends. She really was a sweet girl. We spent a lot of time together when she would visit her cousin who lived in the same neighborhood as I did. She never talked about what happened at Lincoln.
About 5 years ago she attended a retreat where I was a senior staff person. She could not finish, she stayed up all night terrified with a pair of huge shears in her hand. Though she was in no danger whatsoever, in fact she was super safe, she said she was too afraid of being around that many black people. At last I understood. I thought to myself if I didn’t know all of them I would probably be afraid too.
Where and when will this race madness end?