The current crushing issue in America today is the death of George Floyd. Only one of an appalling number of victims. Police and political leaders have long ignored elements of racism with deadly and open hostility to the rules of law and public policy.
American citizens are rightly aggrieved and enacting their anger in the streets of our cities and towns. While the vast numbers of protesters are peacefully practicing restraint others are angry enough to violently take to the streets and take law into their own hands.
I know. I survived similar acts of rebellion in Detroit. That too was a time of great violence. In July of 1967. The police raided an unlicensed bar that was a drinking club. The participants inside were celebrating the return home of a veteran from the maw that was the Vietnam War. The police entered the bar in force. That event sparked the twelfth worst event in American history
Then, all eyes were focused on the smoke coming from the downtown area. As the event was winding down my aunt was expected at the welfare center downtown. I remember that sunny and hot summer afternoon. As we drove downtown, we saw an army jeep speeding past us. In it were four soldiers. One of them had a fiberglass helmet liner in the jeep and it flew out and bounced into the packed freeway. I did not know it then, but I was witnessing a horrible landmark event in the history of our nation.
The carnage spread over the entire city. I remember the terror that spread through my community. The destruction seemed to be close in on us. My neighborhood was a working class one. My father was a worker in the auto industry. We were a family of a typical working-class Joe. Many of the people involved in that horrible summer had probably worked alongside him on the factory line. He probably knew at least one person in midst of the upswelling of that anger.
I did not know what this whole atmosphere of violence meant at the time. I was just a teenager. However, soon I was faced with the horrors of the Vietnam War. I finally understood that I could begin to see a fraction of what was at stake that summer of destruction. I grew up and grew up quickly.
As oblivious as I was as a younger man then, this time I am more deeply cognizant of the despair that a valuable community is suffering. From my experience in 1967 I find that as a man, I am partially responsible through my own lack of action.
Being a white American I will never have to fear for my life when being pulled over for running a stop sign. I will never have to fear death when having unknowingly passing a store clerk a counterfeit 20-dollar bill.
This story both compares and contrasts a painful act of rebellion. One whose roots, then as now, deserve address and action. Our society must act quickly and effectively so that together we can all breathe. We must remember that whoever saves any or all life is said to have saved our whole world.
We can never accept or condone violence. Instead we must attempt to understand fear and discrimination.
I write not as a “professional’ correspondent”, but as a witness, a witness of that summer. I hope that I and we at the Tarrant Chronicle can reach out to hear the voices of those to whom so much damage has already been done.
We want to hear your stories.