Thursday, April 16, 2009

TheThree Reasons I Hate Being In A Crowd Of angry White People

By: Harold Michael Harvey

I don’t know where to begin this morning. I had quite an experience yesterday attending the Atlanta Anti-Tax Day Tea Bag Party. Seeing a sea of angry white people has never left me with a good feeling.

I saw my first scene like this in the mid-1950's when a pack of angry gun toting white men stormed my grandfather’s farm behind a team of howling blood hounds looking for some poor black soul whom the local Masonic Order was able to steer out of town on a rail car.

A similar scene repeated itself ten years later as I walked down Holt Avenue in Macon, Georgia towards the entrance to the Old Lanier Jr. High School for Boys. It was the first day that a black boy had attended this school and the neighborhood’s finest white boys my age had assembled outside the front of the school to protest their displeasure of having me thrust down their throats. “Two, four, six, eight we don’t want to integrate,” they yelled at the top of their lungs. A federal official came through the crowd and cleared a pathway for me where he carried me to the principal’s office until the other boys were seated in their class rooms.

Six years following this terrifying scene, I woke up from a good night’s sleep in the great State of Alabama. I washed by face and contemplated whether I should comb my Afro. It had not been combed in several days, so I thought better of combing it on this morning. I brushed my teeth and pulled a poncho over my lean upper torso, grabbed my book bag and headed out to political science classes at Tuskegee Institute.

With me on this trek to class was my brother Gerald. He had dreams of becoming the President of the United States and I had dreams of becoming his Attorney General. We were joined by our house mate and childhood friend Steve Duval. Steve was tapped by his family to take the helm of the family owned business when the time came.

As we walked towards the historical campus, Donald Lee, a guidance counselor at Tuskegee Institute drove by and offered us a ride to campus. We climbed into his car and then he told us George Wallace was kicking off his campaign for President in Ozark, Alabama. He thought it was a good idea to take a group of students down to witness this moment in history. Wallace had polled 12% of the national electorate in the ‘68 presidential election which lead to the defeat of Hubert Humphrey and the election of the “law and order” candidate Richard Nixon. Gerald and I thought it was much better to see politics in the making than to read about it, so we persuaded Steve to come along for the ride.

Off to Ozark, Alabama we went. We arrived late in the evening. The crowd was beginning to gather. We immediately came to the attention of the assembled crowd. We were the only Negroes in attendance. As the day gave way to dusk, the crowd swelled. There was a mass sea of white people of all ages. But what struck me most about this crowd were the small new born babies wrapped in bumper stickers that said “States Rights”, “Segregation Today, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever,” and “Wallace For President.” It was as if the supply of my tormentors would never end. Later that night I wrote home to my mom that white people were breeding hatred.

We sensed that the best place for our hands were inside our pockets. We were afraid that if our hands were exposed we might accidentally touch one of the fair maidens of the South and would have to run for our lives. I felt the pack of Kool cigarettes inside my poncho and begin to pull one out. A group of white men to our rear surged towards us, Steve Duval shouted under his breathe, “put that cigarette down,” he nudged my hand back inside my poncho. The surge stopped, but we were surrounded.

We noticed the helicopter carrying George Wallace had been circling the football stadium for half an hour. Something was keeping him from landing. We figured that something was us. Suddenly, a large contingent of heavy set white men flopped down on the bleacher bench behind us. We heard a loud thump in unison. We were all concerned but tried not to show it. Then a black man from the secret service appeared behind the white men. He stood at the exit to the stadium. He gave us a quick look. It assured us he had our backs.

Wallace’s helicopter landed. He gave a rousing speech. He told the crowd “there ain’t a dime worth of difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.” Wallace pushed the State’s Rights agenda and urged the crowd “to send a message to that liberal crowd up in Washington.” The crowd went wild and while they were euphoric, we slowly took our leave. We were careful not to brush up against anyone, particularly any white females. We got to our car tired, frighten and hungry. We dared not stop for food. Steve Duval was so affected by this experience that he stayed in the house for the next three weeks. We could not get him to go to class.

I’ve not told this story and had tried to put it out of my mind all these years; but being in a crowd of angry white people, shouting anti-American government rhetoric yesterday brought back the pains of a Spring day 38 years ago.

© April 16, 2009


Delcano said...

I am sure my memories are not as potent as yours but the power some of them have keep them coming back to my mind as a reminder of the lessons learned as a young person about angry white people.

I was about fifteen or so just about to enter an art exibit when I heard a commotion on the parking lot. As I approached a white man had a gun pointed at a black while he and others were yelling racial slurs at him. Seems the black man questioned why the white man had slammed his car door against his car scarring it.

In moments (white) police arrived and arrested the black with out asking questions nor addressing the issue and certainly made no comments about the white man waving a gun.

It didn't take many scenes like that to let me know my and other blacks' status was not what it should have been under the law. With that in mind I assure you I had no reason to attend any Tea Bag rallies especially since I noticed all the promotions FOX NEWS was doing for them.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Harvey,

Well done! The majority of my family (mothers’ side) are from Montgomery Alabama, so I've heard the horror stories! Very well done!

Nickalus T. Holt

Harold Michael Harvey said...

Delcano, I attended this event as a citizen journalist. I wanted to witness this event and write about it later. It may take another 38 years before I can make sense out of this nonsensical event. That was a very dangerous group of people driven by frustration and disenchantment over the outcome of last Fall's election. Also, thanks for sharing your memories of mountains climbed at other times.

Harold Michael Harvey said...

Mr. Holt, thanks for your comment. I know the Montgomery area well. I spent some time there during my days as a student. There are some good people in that area.

Anonymous said...

This is an intense article, and very well written. You have two typos but nobody probably notices unless they are an editor, as I am.

Being white, I can only relate because of my active imagination. I have thought often since the sixties and the Life cover of the little black girl in a white dress being escorted by tight-lipped and heavy-bodied state troopers along a line of threatening white parents and children, how unfair it was for the children to be alone on the front lines of desegregation. I suppose their parents presence whould only have inflamed the situation more.

I'm sorry you or anyone else has those awful memories. When, oh when, will we learn we are all One and the pain of one of us hurts us all.

Harold Michael Harvey said...

Sandy Fackler, when indeed will people learn we come from the same source.

Thanks for your comment editorial suggestion.

ladyluna said...

I live in an area where there is still so much ignorance, and it appalls me regularly. We were starting up a daycare in Georgetown IN, and I was the assistant director. It was my job to take the handyman/custodian from the main site there to get some work done, and the head director asked me to stop at a local shop and pick up supplies. It was my first lesson in the BS some people are still living. I stopped, and he said he would wait in the car. I guess the people didn't see me get out, because the things I heard in the store completely outraged me, and when I said something, I was not treated very well. I ended up going out and having to stop some guy from trying to harrass this man. He remained calm and polite throughout. He was not the kind of man to normally take things sitting down. He thanked me for "sticking" my neck out, and I couldn't believe that this kind of hatred was able to be pulled off without anybody else speaking up. This was just 8 yrs ago.

Harold Michael Harvey said...

Ladyluna, thanks for your comment and the courage you displayed in standing up for that man. We need more people to stand up for people who are different than themselves.

Anonymous said...

I'm a white middle-aged woman living in a neighborhood that is 95% black. I owe my life to my neighbor across the street, who stopped a home invasion attempt three years ago, when I was home alone. He's black, by the way.

Around the corner lives the son of a Methodist preacher who pastored my grandmother's church some 50 years ago. He gets upset about the noise of the Sunday afternoon barbecues and drives around firing a pistol in the air if a party gets too loud.

Down the street and around another corner is the home of a black family who rents a room to a black man with some type of mental disorder. They kicked him out one rainy night and he was standing on the corner with his suitcase when the police came by and ordered him to leave. Some 20 minutes later (when I became aware of the situation) I drove around the corner and pulled up next to him and offered to call someone. His sister was in the car on her way to Texas (I live in Mississippi)and there wasn't anyone else to help him. I called the police dispatcher and explained the situation--he'd been kicked out of his rented room but had a receipt showing that he had paid the rent. The same officers came back and this time followed him back to the house and talked the landlord into letting the man back into the house. The two white officers were the same ones who had driven by earlier; this time they actually rolled the window down and spoke to the man, but they followed him closely in the car, tapping the brakes as if restraining the urge to run him over.

Some days I despair of acceptance ever coming to the forefront of our society. I can only do what I can do....daily or as opportunity presents itself. I live where I do primarily for economic reasons but I have also noticed that driving through wealthier white neighborhoods, there is an element of 'I'm priviliged, get out of my way'. In my neighborhood, there's a competitive air, yes, but people stop to help each other, even if strangers.

I'm glad I live where I do. Nothing bad has ever happened to me here (barring a former neighbor climbing my fence to steal my lawnmower several years back) but occasionally other people and their problems land on my doorstep. The man who crashed his sister's car into my fence and jumped it with an AK-47 in one hand...that was scary. I was outside at the time but he just ran across the yard and jumped the other corner, where he was immediately caught--but only after a hotheaded rookie police officer fired shots at my son and I as we scrambled for the back door.

People tend to fear what they haven't been exposed to; insularity looks comforting but actually prolongs the fear...God grant this nation the courage to reach out to their neighbors without fear but with a gentle curiosity that leads to conversation, not conflict.

Harold Michael Harvey said...

"God grant this nation the courage to reach out to their neighbors without fear but with a gentle curiosity that leads to conversation, not conflict."

Anonymous, I wish you had left your name because this is a wonderful prayer. I think I will pray it the next several days and see how it changes people and situations. Thanks for sharing your experiences and for leaving us a wonderful prayer.

TenFeet2Hands said...

I see I am not the only editor in the room...this is a gripping presentation. Blacks and whites must put emotion and fear aside to discuss the history of this country.
I heard someone on C-SPAN --a history professor, say today "To those who speak of a post-racial society must first define when we were pre-racial."

Blacks want parity and the same sense of freedom whites wake-up each day to enjoy without thought or consideration. Freedom means something very different to whites than it does to Blacks and the divide is more than a chasm. Ones location or education, is not enough, it is fear of being judged, stereotypically, by skin color.

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