When I Was First Made Aware Of Racism, I Was 9 Years Old
When I Was First Made Aware Of Racism, I was 9 Years Old
Today, June 2, 2020, 92.9 WTUG is participating in Black Out Tuesday. Earlier today, Jade Nicole explained Black Out Tuesday and it resonated with me, “It began as an idea to fill social media with black squares symbolizing emptiness to give the time usually dedicated for the things we’d normally share to instead give others time to educate themselves on the social injustices and systemic racism that has plagued our country since the beginning of time.”
Jade’s story got me thinking about the topic of racism. As I sat at my desk, I tried to figure out when did I learn about racism. In this reflection, it made me even more thankful for the way I was raised in Pompano Beach, Florida, by my Mother (Bea) and Father (Bud). They had a very different perspective of life and how to treat others because they were both completely deaf. I was introduced to racism in May of 1980 during the Miami Race Riots. I was nine years old. Back story, Arthur McDuffie, a black man was killed by four police officers in December 1979 after a high-speed chase. From what I remember from watching the local news, is that McDuffie ran a red light and took the cops on a high-speed chase. The Washington Post reported back 1980 that “the medical examiner said Arthur McDuffie's skull had been shattered like an egg. Some of the police officers at the scene were sickened.”
Remember, I was nine-years-old.
As I type this story, I'm crying. I really have never shared this story.
We actually took a trip to Miami that day; we were not far from the riots. I was part of a music competition that was at a hotel. My family and I were in the hotel room, and the phone rang. I was excited because we didn’t have a phone at our house. So, I answered, and I remember it like it was yesterday, “Hello, this is the hotel desk, there is a riot going on right now not far from the hotel and we are asking that all hotel guests do not leave their rooms. If you need anything, we will bring it to you.” And she hung up. I repeated that back to my Father and he immediately said, “those white guys got off.” My mother turned on the TV and we sat there and watched the coverage.
My mother cried.
My father was very upset.
And I was … confused.
I asked, “what is a race riot.” My father explained it the best he could and said it was similar to how people treated deaf people, not the same but similar but it was based on a person’s skin color. And said, "we all know those white cops killed that black man and now they are free. The black people are mad and now they are rioting."
I am still confused.
I asked my Dad, so people don’t like people that are black? [In my mind I was thinking of my friends, neighbors, my Mother's friends, and my Dad's co-workers] He responded he said "only some people who don’t have good sense, those people are racists. And some don't show it, remember that." Meanwhile, my mother is still crying and praying her rosary for those in the riots.
According to Black America Web, “on May 17, 1980, the jury acquitted the remaining cops, leading to the riots. Liberty City residents began rioting and burning cars, while reportedly attacking whites in the street. Gov. Bob Graham called in the National Guard. In three days of rioting, 17 were reported dead and over 1,000 arrested. The area was declared a disaster zone. Then-President Jimmy Carter came to Miami and asked the community to quell the tension and take action before he would approve much needed federal assistance.”
It is my hope that we can all get past racism. I know it is a lofty goal but it is my hope.