Racial Tension 1972 7/1/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

To be completely honest, this post is going to be past reflections on fuzzy memories of my early years of life. In 1972, I was nine years old, and something that would change my life forever was about to happen.

No, for me, it wasn’t racial tension. I was barely old enough to know that they were occurring, but I did know. I certainly wasn’t old enough to make sense of them though. No, my family was moving.

The summer between my fourth and fifth grade, which is how I know the year, we were moving from the north part of town where crime was high. The neighborhood was not considered to be safe, and of course, in 1972, it was the racial minorities that were blamed. Only four years earlier, Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated, and the civil rights movement was strong. At my age, I was highly restricted as to where I could travel. School was about a mile and a half from where I lived, and I had to walk that four times a day since school lunches would not be a thing until maybe my second or third grade. I guess walking was safer than riding the bus, but even at that I had to walk with the kid up the street.

Moving was awkward for me. I moved from a school where you really wanted to keep your head down and go unnoticed for your own safety to one where everybody was expected to be jockey and popular. It was a difficult transition for me, bad enough, in fact, to have been pointed out in social studies class by a teacher in middle school who mentioned me by name as an example of somebody who never fit in. I don’t remember the lesson, of course, but I remember the incident well. Let’s just say it’s not something a teacher could get away with today.

At nine, I must have been wondering why we were moving to a new home. Somebody, and I really don’t remember who, told me that we were moving because of racial tensions, although the way they put it was that it was “becoming too dangerous to be white.” I certainly didn’t understand it, but whoever said this to me claimed that the neighbor’s white daughter was raped by a black man.

I was not old enough to understand what “rape” was, and I certainly wasn’t old enough to actually question the validity of this statement. It was a different age back then, although, sadly, I don’t know how different. The term “rape” has too many gray areas. A woman can be very sexual at sixteen or seventeen years old, but regardless of what she does, “statutory rape” is a real thing. Now, honestly, I do believe that men who target young women are indeed predatory and should be held responsible, but I find it hard to put this form of rape in the same category as others.

Rape by a minority is not always rape, especially back then. If a white daughter seduced and slept with a black man then, it was a difficult thing for adults to accept. Of course, their sweet and innocent daughters couldn’t have been a willing participant. This would put a veil of shame on the entire family for eternity (or so it was believed), so of course it had to be rape.

I was too young to question the narrative, though. I never stopped to think that maybe there was a second side to the story. I was told that a black man raped a white female, so of course that’s what happened. Today, tragically, there are still people who live with this philosophy. A friend of mine posted a story from a reputable source claiming that recent protest violence is largely linked to extreme right-wing groups. It didn’t really come to me as a surprise; there have been multiple stories from multiple sources all coming to the same conclusion. Yes, there are violent liberals, but for the most part, it’s extreme conservatives often posing as left leaning antagonists inciting violence. My friend’s post incited a comment from somebody who I am guessing is a friend of his calling the article “propaganda” because, of course, everybody knows it’s ANTIFA and liberal democrats who have been causing the violence. Challenged to post references, his friend’s only response was “they’re everywhere”, and asked where my friend’s references were, to which all he had to reply was “this article, and the many references within.”

People believe what they want to believe. Photographic evidence, and statistics of those actually arrested at protests all point to white conservatives involved in the violence, vandalism and looting, yet the president and his supporters continue blaming the left and, indirectly, minorities for it. It’s time for our society to grow up, to stop seeing what we want and start seeing truth. It’s not easy, but neither are we still nine years old.

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