I know when the revolution started for me.
When I was in middle school I remember one particularly sad event, a race riot. It happened one morning while kids waited outside to get into school, and the project kids squared off against the kids that lived in houses. I don't remember if there were many white kids who got into the malaise but I knew most of the black kids who raised fists at each other because I had gone to school with most of them since third grade.
It was a cold morning and like most winter mornings in Connecticut, my hair-sprayed wet hair froze to my head when I walked to school. I remember walking onto the school property and cop cars littered the front lawn of the school. I was too cold to investigate and I bypassed the crowds and went right into the lobby where I saw my vice principal being attended to by paramedics as his nose bled profusely through the gauze someone was holding against his face. His shirt was ripped and stained with blood and a dull chatter filled the hallways as I went to my locker and then to my home room.
Once in my home room, all the kids were talking about "The Race Riot" where Mr. Stack, my vice principal, had his nose broken as he tried to break up the fight. I didn't interject in the speculation of why it happened or what would happen next because I knew why it happened and I knew it would never touch me. The black kids weren't mad at me, they were mad at the world they lived in and it boiled over between what they thought were the haves and the have-nots.
No kid wants to admit they live in the projects in Middle School. Rap hadn't caught on yet in the mainstream and at that time, there was no such thing as "street cred". All they saw were the kids who had their own rooms and driveways and cars and they knew they would never have such things and it pissed them off.
I can only guess that the project kids waited outside the bus zone in our lily white neighborhood for the other bus of black kids to arrive from the houses and they jumped them when the house kids got off the bus. The irony was the kids in the houses were just as poor as the kids from the projects and both were bussed into a neighborhood where they were all outsiders. They lived a block away from each other on the south side of town, where no white families lived unless they were just as poor as the black families.
It made no sense to me then and while the violence is just as illogical to me today, I get their anger now at a deck stacked against them and the inward anger communities show to themselves when that anger boils over. I've had the benefit of seeing the LA Riots, the Baltimore Riots, the Ferguson Riots and a culture of injustice from the streets of one of America's most downtrodden cities. Those lessons have given me an understanding of it now and it's a lesson I wish I never had to learn.
The thing that sticks out for me that started that day was a feeling of impending war that I saw coming. I fully expected that the black youth would one day stand up and march the three blocks over from their poor side of town to the wealthy side of town and claim a reckoning on white America. I felt it would come at any time for most of my life since. Little would I know that when it came it wouldn't be the black youth who called us to action, but instead a white-haired Jewish man from New England.
And what is so amazing about this Revolt, is that it's not the violence that boils so fervently below the surface that is causing it to grow, but the anger of the common American that is making it spread like dandelions across a not-so-well manicured lawn. Each day a new spot blooms in color, grows tall and turns to a cloud of seeds that blow in the wind to some other point of germination that will light afire in color the next morning.
Even more ironic, is the ones who lead me to believe that they would author this wildfire of change are the ones we are fighting for the hardest to get them to join this Revolution and feel the Bern. But then again, that was a time almost 30 years back when youth and energy abounded in these young men. Today most of those boys I knew are not men but instead have joined a field of stones and bars silenced for the ages. Last I heard about the ring leaders of that fight, they were they were in jail or dead. One was found executed on the side of I95 and another was sent away for years for dealing drugs. The rest fell away from life in ways I have yet to learn, voices of change quieted by the wheels of "progress".
Oh, that I wish they were here to see what I see, but maybe it is their offspring who will carry this banner now. But as these kids of the boys I once knew are just as at risk as their fathers, I wonder why they are so hesitant to join in our peaceful claim of power they so desperately need? Why do they sit idly by and follow the ways of their all too absent parents in their apathy and sheepish following of the Clintons? Do they not realize this is the change their young fathers fought for and died in vain to realize? Maybe if their Dads were not eaten up by a life impossible to live, they might be here today to lend them some words of wisdom and show them the way of hope and real change? Maybe that is how this acceptance of unacceptability has crept in over these last forty years and why it is we are so allowing to let the haves and the have-nots fight amongst each other while the ones who truly have it all sit on the perch above the fray and laugh at our futility.
Published by Christopher Richard