01 Mar 2022

Bone Black, 52

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… We must rise early to catch the buses that will take us to the white schools. So early that we must go into the gymnasium and wait for the other students, the white students, to arrive. Again we are herded, prodded, pushed, told not to make trouble in this early morning waiting period.

Sometimes there is protest. Everyone black walks out, except for those whose parents have warned that there will be no walking out of school. I do not walk out. I do not believe that any demands made will be met. We surrendered the right to demand when the windows to Attucks were covered with wood and barred shut, when the doors were locked. Anyhow, mama has warned us about walking out. The walkouts make everything worse. More than ever before we are cattle, to be herded, prodded, pushed. More than ever before we are slaughtered. We can hear the sound of the paddles reverberating in the hallway as black boys are struck by the white principals. The word spreads rapidly when one of us has been sent home not knowing when and if they will be allowed to come back.

Some of us are chosen. We are allowed to sit in the classes with white students. We are told that we are smart. We are the good servants who will be looked to. We are to stand between the white administration and the black student body. We are not surprised that black boys are not in the smart classes, even though we know that many of them are smart. We know that white folks have this thing about black boys sitting in classes with white girls. Now and then a smart black boy is moved into the classes. They have been watching him. He has proved himself. We know that we are all being watched, that we must prove ourselves. We no longer like attending school. We are tired of the long hours spent discussing what can be done to make integration work. We discuss with them knowing all the while that they want us to do something, to change, to make ourselves into carbon copies of them so that they can forget we are here, so that they can forget the injustice of their past. They are not prepared to change.

Although black and white attend the same school, blacks sit with blacks and whites with whites. In the cafeteria there is no racial mixing. When hands reach out to touch across these boundaries whites protest, blacks protest as well. Each one seeing it as a going over to the other side. School is a place where we came face to face with racism. When we walk through the rows of national guardsmen with their uniforms and guns we think that we will be the first to die, to lay our bodies down. We feel despair and long for the days when school was a place where we learned to love and celebrate ourselves, a place where we were number one.

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