As I continue this ramble through time, I stopped last just at the Birmingham riots. As I said, these riots and other events that followed showed us that we were not living the quaint life we all thought we were. As I said, we knew that the “Leave It To Beaver” shows were far from reality, but it was a “reality” that we seemed to cling to as what could be and, more importantly, what SHOULD be. The race changes knock a deep hole in that belief. As I was growing up during that time, a lot of “get back to where they belong” and “they don’t know their place” seemed to crop up in a lot of conversations. No, those exact words weren’t the ones that were used but the intent was the same. “Uppity” was also a word I was introduced to …
This whole upset I don’t think has ever really gone away. Because what seemed to come on the heels of all that was, of course, the Kent State demonstrations and the photograph that still haunts today …. (BTW this photo was taken by John Filo)
Now, the second hit arrives. This wasn’t a death by a terrorist, by a criminal or an accident. This was by someone who was a part of a group that we all believed were there to protect us, help us and get us through the tough times. Now, we had new terms “dirty hippy”, “radical” “peacenik”, idiot sponger” and such. Also remember, during much of this time Dr. Carl McItire and others like him were causing everyone (including myself) to be frightened of communists everywhere – but especially where you least expected them. This was actually a “whistle” to be afraid of anyone that didn’t look like/sound like/act like/marry like/eat like/smell like whatever the standard was at that time.
So, this allows folks to easily move back and forth from “not like us” and “not white like us”. . And this also cemented even further the cynicism and distrust that had bubbled onto the surface of so many lives.
Sunday is the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the events that would (in my mind) show how we got here ….