I posted how my childhood was marked and remarkable in part 2. It was marked by all the exhibitions of hatred I witnessed through the media, which came through a black and white television that was in our living room. It was remarkable because as young as I was, I was able to come to the conclusion this world was full of hatred and it seemed all the hatred was aimed at me because I was black.
One day, we were sitting around, when the news report came in. “Dr. Martin Luther King assassinated!” My mother was visibly upset as she sat and cried while my father’s face was glued to the television screen. I can’t remember what time of the day it was, but it was still daylight and it seemed all of Hyde Park-Chicago came to a standstill. Martin Luther King was dead! Things would never be the same after this day.
That night or the night after, riots erupted everywhere. We lived a block and a half from an Illinois National Guard Armory on the south side of Chicago. They started rolling jeeps with machine guns mounted on tripods. They were followed by personnel carriers full of Army National Guard. They were headed toward 63rd Street. I went to our kitchen window and from our apartment on the third floor, the sky glowed red. Sirens blared all night long because of the riots less than a mile from where I lived. The next day my father told me and my brother to stay in our apartment because the police have gone crazy locking all the black people up.
I sat there thinking. And the more I thought the more I started hating what I had seen and was seeing at that moment. I figured that white people just hated us for no apparent reason. The years before Martin Luther King was assassinated played over and over in my head. Cairo Illinois, Medgar Evers, Emmet Till, Malcom X and the church bombings became fresh thoughts once more and I started hating white people. But I didn’t run right out and commit any crimes because I was afraid of my parents. I just sat there and the hatred continued to build.
I attended Charles Kozminski Grade School during that time. I had white teachers and white classmates. With the exception of a couple of teachers, I didn’t see the same hatred I grew to know in other white people. But I never became good friends with any of them. There were all kinds of nationalities in Hyde Park and I got along with everybody, but deep inside, hatred was there because of what happened in the previous years.
I graduated to Kenwood High School (now called Kenwood Academy) and again, I had all kinds of people as classmates. Still. I didn’t have any white friends. One day a police officer shot and killed a black man in the hallway of our high school. It was chaotic for weeks. I hated more and more. The Black Student Union was formed and there were boycotts of classes. The Chicago Police came to our school during a sit-in and there were some people injured. I didn’t participate because I was more fearful of my parents. But I stood in the cheering section and supported them. Within a few weeks, the BSU’s demands were met and things snapped back to normal.
I wore bell bottom pants, and in my heart, I wore hatred. I wore an afro hairstyle and underneath the hair, hatred reigned in my brain. I was shouting “make love not war” with the hippies, but in my heart I hated what had happened. I wanted a change. I wanted to see justice served. I wanted white people to see us as somebody they could trust and accept. But I guess, at that time, they were having none of what I wanted.
I didn’t know it then, but as I look back on these days, I realize that the Lord Jesus was with me and working me into what I am today!
Next: I Used To Be A Racist pt 4 – My New Southern Home