“I don’t know why I was anxious. I guess everything just looked so distressed.”
This story is part of our Flight Paths initiative. Produced by Rebecca Werner for the Welcome Project.
Transcript for Dodged A Bullet
I took music lessons from a guy that lived in downtown Gary, so I had to get on the bus, and go to downtown Gary. Gary, from the steel mills till about 9th Avenue: almost a hundred percent white. The downtown shopping area, which went from about 4th and Broadway till 9th Avenue, that was a mixed area. Very commingled down there. No big deal. But when you passed the Little Calumet River, which was around 30th Avenue, it was almost one hundred percent black. And my bus went down Grant Street, and it was a kind of ghetto, if you want to call it that. It just looked rough to me. Yeah, I was anxious. I don’t know why I was anxious. I guess everything just looked so distressed. It kind of scared me. I think that I honestly believed that it was just a cultural difference, that this is the way black people lived, as opposed to the way white people lived.
But I do have to tell you one story. I had taken the bus down to get my trumpet lesson. And apparently when I was sitting in the bus, somehow my fifteen cents to get home fell out of my pocket. Now, I could’ve asked my instructor for fifteen cents, but about that time, I was getting a little bullheaded. So, I walked home through the heart of the black neighborhood. I was scared to death. I don’t think, I thought, the black people liked the white people. But you know what? Even though I was carrying a trumpet, something somebody could’ve clobbered me over the head and stole, nobody said a word to me. That walk convinced me that these people aren’t evil, or demons, or out to pick on white people. They didn’t even look at me funny. It was kind of like—I just walked on home. And I think that kind of changed my view on how things were. Like, ‘Hey, it really would be ok to go down there.’ But I think I felt like maybe—a little bit of me said, ‘Boy, you really dodged a bullet, getting through that, you know, without getting beat up or something like that.’ But you know—but on the other hand, I think it did change me a little bit. I think if I ever saw a black person walking through Glen Park, that I would go out of my way to make sure that person got safely past my neighborhood.
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