I was beaten up (shoved, kicked, punched, and slapped) at Meany Middle School the day after the assassination of Dr. Martin King, Jr. on April 5, 1968.
Black students roamed the hallways and bathrooms and school grounds attacking anyone who was not black. Outside the building, they carried umbrellas and were poking non-blacks.
At the time, Meany was about 1/3 Asian, 1/3 white, and 1/3 black with probably a sprinkling of Native Americans and Hispanics.
I did not defend myself. I didn't know how. They were much bigger and stronger than me. I do not recall any knives (or other sharp objects other than the rather blunt tips of umbrellas).
I did not scream or cry. I was too terrified. I will always remember the pea-green color of the tiled bathrooms, the smell of the inside of the school hallways. The leafless trees outside. The forest of black umbrellas outside Meany. The eerie silence--of the blows and the victims. No one cried out in fear or pain. No one resisted or fought back.
And no one--teachers or staff--came to our rescue.
No one talked about it in the ensuing days, weeks, months...we (most of us?) went back to school the next day as if nothing had happened.
During the following years I was repeatedly beaten up in the Central Area, in particular at least once at Garfield High School. In one instance, across from Ezell's Chicken, while I was waiting at the bus-stop on Jefferson, a bunch of young black Americans suddenly ran up and started punching me, hard enough to knock me down to the sidewalk, my books spilling in all directions. I remember being on all four fours, my whole body being hit in a quick flurry of blows.
At the end of it, a black girl who had been watching everything at the bus-stop helped me to pick up my scattered books.
Eventually the bus came and I limped on, eyes moistened, shaken. No broken bones, just bruises and small cuts. I went home.
At the time I was barely a teen-ager.
No one said anything about what happened at school or in the newspapers or anywhere in the community that I know of.
For 45 years I have carried this secret. I still have flashbacks and nightmares, although the worst ones happened over 15 years ago.
And now no one in this city, where I was born and raised, will believe me.
I was not born with prejudices.
I did not deserve to be beaten up again and again. Nor did any of the many, many others, who have suffered in silence.
What lesson did we learn?
Don't cry. Don't remember. Don't speak.
It makes me wonder about what happened in cities with much larger percentages of black students in 1968: New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago...
And yet I have never encountered anywhere mention of the fact that nationwide African-American students went on the rampage attacking probably hundreds of thousands of non-black students and leaving deep psychological scars in a whole generation.
For decades I assumed that everyone in my generation knew what, for all intents and purposes, was "an open secret."
As the baby boomers reach in their sixties, as long as they remain silent, what happened to a generation will have vanished from the collective memory, leaving only souped up commemorations to Dr. King.
I have not forgotten, much less forgiven.
Let the whole story be told.
Come out of the shadows.
"If you have any grievances against African-Americans, you must be racist."
Those who call others racists are often the most racist of all.