I don’t even know how to begin this blog entry. Two more young Black men were shot and killed by white police this week and then five policemen were killed by a sniper in Dallas. And then today, while knocking doors, I met a man who told me a story that broke my heart.
He was born in South Carolina in the 1940’s. He grew up Black in the deep south. He and his brother joined the army during the Vietnam era to escape the poverty and prejudice. They went through boot camp together at Fort Dix in New Jersey. But upon completion, his brother was sent to Vietnam and he was sent to Germany. One day he received a message that his brother had been killed in action. The body would be flown back home to South Carolina for burial. The surviving brother was allowed to fly back from Germany to Fort Dix on a military transport with enough time to drive to the funeral in South Carolina.
Along the way, he stopped for lunch at a diner in High Point, NC. He walked in wearing his military attire. The waitress refused to serve him. “We don’t serve Negroes here.” She said and he replied, “That’s OK, I don’t eat Negroes, but I really need some lunch.” She still refused to serve him. He admits to losing his temper and saying some things about serving his nation, losing his brother and travelling to his brother’s funeral plus some things he regrets saying. The waitress called the police who came and pulled him out of the restaurant, beat him severely and tossed him into jail where he stayed for three days until they let him make a phone call. By that time he had missed his brother’s funeral and was scheduled to return back to duty. So that call he made was to his commanding officer. When he heard what had happened the commander called the police captain and convinced him to release the man. Once released he just had the time to drive back to Fort Dix in time for a return flight to Germany.
That was 1968. Well within my lifetime black men were beaten for wanting lunch. How much have things changed? Have they changed that much? The racism isn’t always so overt but no observant person can deny that an institutionalized racism still exists that still kills, incarcerates and destroys the lives of young black men in this country.