Ironically, she had also become a closet racist and really hated herself for these feeling of bitterness that cropped up in her. Believe me, she fought with it. My foster brother, Andy, who came to live with us for our whole senior year in high school was full-blooded Apache. He had to get out of his home because his step-father, of Mexican descent, liked to physically assault him. Well, Andy had a sister, and she and I started to like each other and boy, did my mother have a conniption fit over that. Still, mom never went out of way to attack anyone, racial or over religion, she kept it all inside her. Though when we talked about it, she couldn't understand where it had come from. She raised me to understand we are all created equally and loved in God's eyes, and I have never considered me a racist, or one who persecuted others for their beliefs, and I've tried to raise my children to always believe this. Racism is such an ugly word.
when I was a teenager, visiting my dad in Phoenix for the summer, I got a part-time job working for the same company he was employed with. I was helping move furniture between this five huge apartment complexes and we had to make runs to the warehouse in south Phoenix to pick up or store items as needed. During one such run, I was working with young man in his twenties, who also did the driving, we were down in South Phoenix, right when the riots broke out. This was in the late 1960s and for some reason unknown to me, the Blacks of South Phoenix were deeply upset over a multitude of reasons. I hadn't read the papers or new the issues, only that we found ourselves amongst growing crowds of angry people. I had remembered watching the fiery glow in the skies as Watts had burned during the Los Angeles riots....we slept outside that night and ashes fell upon our sleeping bags. Now, I was smack in the middle of a riot. The man with me saw little choice but hit the gas peddle and get us out of their, but a woman attempted to block us in as others closed in from the sides. It was one of those frightening times of my young life at this point, seeing all the anger on their faces and the hatred in their eyes. My driver ended up hitting the woman with the front fender of our truck, knocking her out of the way, and I have no idea if she was hurt badly or not. We escaped the riots, but I will never forget the experience. I felt so bad about injuring the lady, but I do know things could've turned really bad for us had we been detained. a lot of hostages had been taken that day, some of them brutally assaulted and a few people were shot.
My next experience of racism came in my sophomore year in high school. Upland High, located about 30-miles east of Los Angeles, was a mixture of white, hispanic and a single black youth. We had 8 high schools in our sports league and the farthest one away was 10-miles. We lived in a well populated region of Southern California. One high school carried a majority of hispanics, while another one was 99% Black. One night we played Garey High School, the one that was 99% Black and the game was held at a college campus- Cal Poly I believe it was. Both teams had taken buses to get their and the stadium was located in a small valley. Our football team was 98% white and their team were all blacks. Sometime in the 3rd quarter the referees took the football away from Garey High School and gave it to us. Even our coaches objected to the reasoning, but the Garey fans went crazy. It began with a Garey cheerleader attacking one of our players on the field and suddenly the people from that part of Pomona, which held three high schools, began to empty the stands and charge the field. Football players from both sides found themselves right smack in the middle of a growing riot. Coaches were trying to herd both teams to their buses and quite a few of the players were injured. I was extremely thankful to be wearing my pads and helmet for I was plummeted on the side of my head by someone and knocked to the ground. I watched my lineman coach, a big dude who had played professional football for 3 years, pick up one angry player and put his massive fist right through the kids face mask. We finally made it to the bus and just watched as people were going crazy all around us. One of our seniors lost his father that night, stabbed to death by an unknown assailant. Suddenly, the night air was filled with police sirens when police units from the California Highway Patrol, Sheriff's deputies and police officers from three departments came rushing into the valley. Our coaches suspected they knew something was going to happen due to the way they all showed up at once and they were pretty upset they hadn't been briefed on the possible trouble. The game could've been postponed. End result was Garey High School being given a one year suspension from all sports activities. This would end up having a disastrous effect on the kids hoping for sports scholarships. Truthfully our own high school had some racial problems between the white-Hispanic gangs and this caused a few problems at the high school. Yet once, both sides came together, when it was learned a gang from Chino was enroute to our school for a bit of mayhem. We lined the street outside the high school and the dozens of Chino gang cars simply rolled on by and for a brief period solidarity had come to our school. But it didn't last long. Strangely enough, our high school public bathrooms were owned by the Hispanic gangs and most white used the bathrooms at the gym to keep from being beat on. No guns or knives, just a good thrashing with feet and fists. Kids weren't carrying guns back then, but they did carry knives, mini-clubs and bicycle chains to use as weapons for when a rumble was called down. I ran from such a rumble as a freshman, not wanting to be surrounded by angry Mexican kids and some of them were in their early twenties. Oddly enough, when Andy came to live with us, I no longer had any problems with the Mexican gangs, having been earlier been jumped a couple times. I had to walk through their neighborhoods to get home from school, working out different routes in hopes to avoid them. Most of the gang members thought Andy was Mexican, as he kept his Apache lineage a secret, but he never ran with the gangs. His step=-father was a member of an adult gang and Andy grew up hating such things, plus he was a very devout Catholic. He'd been going to Parochial School until entering high school. He was awarded a full ride college scholarship at the prestigious Pitzer College. We lost contact after that. He had joined the Communist Party oddly enough and I embarrassed him when I showed up wearing my new Air Force uniform. I never saw him again and wished I had numerous times. We shared a bedroom for a year, he loved my mother deeply and we were brothers.
It was while I was stationed at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, a member of the 351st Security Police Squadron, that I encountered my next racial riots. Security Policemen are the same as Army MPs. Some guard the missiles of SAC, while others perform law enforcement for the base. I was one of those worked base police, serving mostly as a gate guard at one of the 3 gates entering Whiteman- located 70-miles east of Kansas City on I-70. One evening some very angry Blacks took over the Airman's Club and eventually set fire to it. I was placed beside one of the club's windows, along with dozens of other SPs, armed with bayonet tipped M-16s. When the K-9 dogs were released into the club, out they came through the windows and some of them landed on those bayonets. Not mine thankfully. We thought it a bit stupid for this riots as Whiteman played home to over 1100 SPs, We had a lot of missile sites to guard. Rioting broke out around the base, but it was soon quieted down. Turned up that some outside agitators from Kansas City had caused a lot of the problems. Remarkably, one of these reasons for the problems was simply the name of the base. Whiteman, which happened to be the name of a former bomber pilot who lost his life and due to his heroism got a base named after him. A fews months later, another race riot broke out, but it to was quieted down by our sheer numbers of cops and K-9 units.
I found it refreshing but odd that when I got to Vietnam, racism was really put on the back burner as everyone was looking out for one another, it was us against the enemy, who was trying to kill us. Danang Air Force Base, located 80 miles south of the DMZ, picked up the name of "Rocket City", we were hit so often.
But, when I was later stationed in Thailand, I walked smack into massive walls of racism, sort of catching a lot of us Nam vets off guard. I bring this up because one such event still haunts my memory. A fight broke out outside the main gate and over a hundred people had encircled the two combatants. Oh, we have white power, brown power, black power and red power going here in Thailand and it was sickening. The crowd was separated and it was discovered the two combatants were Thai and both were female. Hair in disarray, faces and arms covered in bloody wounds, here were two Thai women, one who lived with a black and one who lived with a white, and they were calling each other names in racial slurs. I was sickened, for our social disease had contaminated Thailand.
We had racial problems at Edwards AFB, Mojave Desert in California. Black agitators from Los Angeles were coming on base, which was open and without gates back then, and stirring up trouble. I was working desk sergeant one evening when three cars pulled up outside the building, I had glass doors to see through, and 8 Blacks entered. They had designs on taking over my office. I was able set of my "I need immediate help- duress alarm and worked on quieting them down. Well, the SP armoy was located right off my area, Mike Chapman was on duty, and he hoped the big armored door with a 12 gauge in his hands and he loudly chambered a round to get everyone's attention. All of a sudden I had patrols arriving outside and men being placed into custody. Things got pretty tight there for a moment, believe me. No riots broke out and the agitators from Los Angeles fled back to LA. There was some minor problems and the SPs were practicing riots drills for weeks. Thankfully we never had to use them.
When I arrived in Alaska I walked into a different form of racism, one that was anti-Alaskan Native. Bars still had signs over drinking fountains, showing which one was whites and which for natives. In Southeast Alaska there was signs posted at the small community docks that warned, "No whites allowed after dark". I found this so weird, but in time things were getting better. Still, we have two communities in Central Alaska that hold a bitterness toward whites. Alaska State Troops have to go in with 5-7 officers if they needed to make an arrest, when normally a single trooper would handle it. Odd, but I later discovered, while working for the state, these communities felt the same way about other natives. So, racism is not just confined to black and white, red and brown. Racism is just plain hatred and can turn violent so easily if we are not careful.
Religious persecution is another factor, with Anti-Semitism, Anti-Christian and Anti- Muslim. So many large wars, including the 11 or 13 crusades fought to take control of Jerusalem. All in God's name of course. For years we used the Holocaust Camps as a lesson, but now Poland and Germany are trying to make that all ago away, to forget their history. Lately an Anti-Semitism rally was held right on the grounds of such a camp, where thousands of Jews were horribly put to death. My family history has had distant cousins in those camps as well as being members of the German military. I didn't bother to look to see if any of them worked in those camps for I just didn't want to know.
So, this is the sort of things I awakened with the other morning. To remind us that racism and religious persecution is a vile disease and one only each of us can rid ourselves of. People can be mean spirited, hateful and it truly doesn't matter what color their skin color is. They can also be remarkable, beautiful people with a deep love for their fellow man. It comes down to a choice we make of which qualities we wish to have. My mom worked hard to show me all the races were equal, although she was warring with the problem herself and disliked herself for it. As for my old man, he simply disliked most people, for the hardships of his early life were tough on him. He spent years in an orphanage with his sisters because his parents were split and they couldn't afford to feed them. Dad fled the orphanage the first time at 8 yrs old and hitchhiked from Wisconsin to Texas before he was caught. Then at 10 years old he took off and road the trains to California, where he finally located his Dad. He came across some bad people along the way, but would never get into details- never.
When I gave my life to the Lord in 1981, my life began to change, as it often does for others. My father and I had become estranged, but the Good Lord handled that and we grew closer than ever before. As the song goes, it's all about LOVE.
Story time over. Thank you for listening to this old man...hey, I'm only 65 but I am the patriarch for this large clan of ours. May the Good Lord bless you this day and those to follow. Be kind to one another and say hello to a stranger when passing them on the street. You might have just made their day. BILL