Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Young black men in park at 5 p.m.

06-12-12 6:06 PM

Six or eight black kids of late high school age in Scoville Park when I walked by in the darkness about 5 p.m. on way to library, they on and around a bench opposite the monument, I on the winding path. One was going hot and heavy at another, venting. Others stood listening and chatting. the loud one was not threatening the other. As a group they were not threatening anyone.

I walked on by, glancing at them as I walked. One called out after I had passed them, "Hi, Brother." I didn't turn, partly because I wasn't sure he meant me, partly because I usually keep going in such situations. It's an instinct, as when I kept going in the open field at ABLA Homes on Roosevelt Road on the summer night in 1965 (ck) when rioting was under way over fire hydrants turned off and other matters. An adult called to me as I passed a knot of teen-aged boys: "Hey! You with the collar!" referring to me in my clerics. "Come 'ere."

I didn't but kept going toward the church at the project's southwest corner where various do-gooders were gathering. It was seven or so, and light out. But I was not about to make the young men's acquaintance at that point, even if I was a worker with youth and a teacher.

So this time I kept going even after the young man yelled again, "Brother." By now I was pretty sure he meant me but figured I did not want to turn around. He was being cheeky, I felt. But he was also being friendly in a rough way. I kept going.

Returning 15 minutes or so later on the same path, I passed the group again. They had me pegged now for a snob, no doubt about it. "White fagot," I heard as I walked guy. "Wouldn't talk to us." I wore a floppy hat: "Sherlock Holmes." The gorge was rising now: "Fuck you."

None of it was threatening. They spoke in surly, hurt fashion. I kept going again.

Ten minutes later I was returning down Lake Street heading for the park, in the block east of the Oak Park Avenue intersection. Some of the young men came along. There were others on the sidewalk. One of them had stopped another black guy, older than they by a few years and alone, two or three doors from Oak Park. One of them who had just passed me turned and yelled to the other: "Let the nigger go," he yelled. "Fuck the nigger."

A black couple also passing them looked fearful. But we not in the group, and certainly we whites, were the target of no attention at this point. We were part of the scenery, period. There wasn't even so much a threat of violence in what they said as simple cheekiness. Oddly, the group members were not unattractive, and this isn't any Stockholm syndrome I experienced or am describing. Instead, there was something going on among them that deserved attention. Can't prove it and from what I describe you wouldn't think so. Still, something was going on.

No comments: