My first experience with the physical violence of racism

From “US: The Resurrection of American Terror” by Rev. Kenneth W. Wheeler

My first experience with the physical violence of racism took place while I was walking to spend the weekend with my father. It was a Friday evening during the summer. It had not yet grown dark. I was seven years of age. There was a good deal of traffic flowing on Woodrow Wilson Avenue, a main thoroughfare. I had walked that route many times without any thought of being harmed.

This particular Friday would be different. I had almost reached Holmes Avenue, the street where my father and aunt lived. All of a sudden I saw this car speeding toward me. The four white men in the car were yelling from their open windows to the top of their lungs, “Nigger boy, nigger boy.” The car suddenly cut from the street up onto the sidewalk. I ran up into the yard of Mr. and Mrs. Willie Steens, who lived on the corner of Holmes and Woodrow Wilson. The Stevenses had the nicest house in the neighborhood. It was a beautiful brick home. All of us kids thought the Stevenses were very wealthy because of their home and also because they drove a brand new Lincoln, which they parked under their carport.

Mrs. Stevens was a beautiful brown-skinned woman with a kind face. She must have seen what happened. She ran out on her side porch screaming.

“Son, are you OK? Are you OK?!”

I did not stop to answer. I kept on running. My heart was racing. I knew the driver of that car intended to harm me if not kill me. I did not stop running until I stepped onto the porch of my aunt’s and into the house. I was soaked with sweat but I said nothing of what had happened a few moments earlier to either my aunt or my father. When I went to bed that night it took me a very long time to go to sleep. I kept hearing the ugly voices of those four white men. I kept thinking that my life could have ended that day. I kept seeing the ugly looks on each of their faces as they called me something that I had never been called up to that point in my life, at least not in that way.