26 Nov

Riot Control Martin Luther King #2

Riot Control Practice April 1968 #2

I took these photos in the beginning of April 1968 after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, where I was stationed in the army at the time was on lockdown, like all military installations in the USA, and we were practicing riot control tactics, before being shipped out to nearly 100 cities across the USA that had riots taking place in them. This was not even a year after the Summer of 1967 which saw major riots in Detroit, Michigan and Newark, New Jersey. It was also not even 3 years since the Watts riots in Los Angeles, California. Then if we move into the future there is relative calm for another 24 years until the Rodney King riots, in Los Angeles, California, in 1992. Then 20 years later we had the Trayvon Martin shooting and then 2 years later in 2014 we have the Michael Brown riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Each one of them began over an injustice that was perpetrated on a member of the black race by a member of the white race and each one of them ended in the black community destroying itself in retaliation.

It’s an interesting coincidence that the riots always happen during periods of war. It reminded me of Arnold Toynbee’s view of history that compares a civilization to a living organism. This view led me to look at the possibility that maybe the violence of the war affected the organism so that members felt that it was necessary offer a sacrifice of self immolation like protestors including a Quaker minister and Buddhist monk during the war in Vietnam. Perhaps the black community is acting for the white race by performing a sacrifice to ask for forgiveness for all the death and injustice of the war, because there is injustice in all wars, even just ones.

When Jesus Christ was crucified and he was hanging on the cross one of the last things that he said in Luke 23:34 was β€œFather forgive them they do not know what they are doing.” In this case forgiveness needs to go from the white community towards the black community that has committed self immolation as a sacrifice for our sins. I say our, because I am one of them, because I am white, even though I am not a racist and try to be color blind.

When I was a child of 4 or 5 years, around 1951 or 1952 an incident took place that shaped my view of black people, permanently. My dad and I picked up my aunt, uncle and 2 cousins who didn’t have a car at the time. We lived on the top story of a 2 story house that my Grand Parent’s owned and lived in the bottom floor of, which is where some sort of gathering was taking place. When we were leaving the car there was a black couple walking on the sidewalk about 8 or 10 houses away coming towards us.

I immediately said β€œlook dad, there are some n…..s,” but my dad said,” be quiet.” When he did this for some reason I thought that he didn’t understand, that these were some of the people that he hated and let his feelings of dislike for them be known to mom and me. So I repeated my announcement that the hated n…..s were coming our way. Then my dad then put his hand over my mouth, but I tried to get his fingers off and scream though them, but my voice was muffled. The next thing I remember was we were in the upper flat where we lived and my dad brought me into his bedroom. After he closed the door he took off his belt and proceeded to beat the shit out of me with it, using it like a whip, and I suddenly understood as I screamed for my life. After that I never called a black person the β€œN” word again and used the term, only as an example of what others said.

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