Last night I asked my mom about 1968 and if she felt it was similar to today. Mom recalled that time pretty clearly. She remembered adults “whispering” about what was going on. People were fearful and had heard stories about Black Panthers recruiting kids her age. They were afraid of shootouts with police and her father, my grandfather, got together with the gym teachers and other black men and formed the “K Men.” They would take turns stationed at the doors of the school to “protect the kids from the Black Panthers” in case they wanted to “disrupt things.” But if they wanted to talk to the principal first to give a “seminar or lecture” they would let them in. She learned the lesson that we fight with our minds instead of “guns or fists” and that the best weapon was “education,” specifically “credentials.” That’s why they liked King better… “he was an educated man.”
The lesson about credentials, etc. didn’t really take with me as I’ve never been quite into “respectability,” and I asked why she thought I was so different. She recognized that I’ve always been “wired” differently and that my response to things that I don’t think are important is akin to the story of Ferdinand at the bullfight. But she also informed me that she sees us living in a different time. When she was growing up, if you crossed the wrong white person on the wrong day she said you could be “taken from your home in the middle of the night.” Black families would often suddenly “move away on a rumor, afraid of being killed for some slight” and that was the reason why her family moved from South Carolina to Pittsburgh before she was born.