“…it is actually possible for something so wrong to go on with everybody just assuming it’s normal.”
This story is part of our Flight Paths initiative. Produced by Rebecca Werner for the Welcome Project.
Transcript for We Just Want to Run
Race was never discussed around me. Nobody on the block would ever talk about this. That’s what’s so strange about Gary. There were no signs: ‘Whites only,’ ‘Blacks only.’ But it was like there was an iron curtain there that you just didn’t penetrate.
But in 1968, a Valpo Law graduate named Richard Hatcher, a black man, got elected mayor of Gary. And I’ll tell you exactly what happened, because it happened on my block, and it happened on every block in Glen Park. Almost immediately after this guy got elected: ‘For Sale’ signs up. There was this huge flood of people that left to flee to Portage, Valparaiso, Merrillville. People were concerned property values would go down. And there was a great fear that pent-up resentment from black people was going to spill forth in terms of violence against whites. What was a hundred percent white area—I would say it was seventy-five percent black. My street turned into a—just a ghetto. I went down there a couple years ago. It really—it’s scary. Any house that isn’t boarded up are just a mess. They need paint, there’s debris in the yard, you might see a car in a front yard, all rusted-out. Truthfully, I wouldn’t get out of my car in my block now. It just looks rough, like something could happen.
But in 1968, we moved to Miller Beach. Lily-white Miller Beach. My street now, where I used to live there in Miller, it’s ninety percent black. However, that house in Miller Beach looks better now than when we lived in it, so it isn’t necessarily true that if black people move in, they will destroy. Didn’t happen in our Miller neighborhood. Why it happened in Glen Park, I don’t know.
I would like people to understand that it is actually possible for something so wrong to go on with everybody just assuming it’s normal. I know you get busy doing other things—I certainly did. I’m guilty of not taking a very active role in change, but listen to the way this situation was handled in Gary, Northwest Indiana. Everything would’ve been fine in Gary if people would’ve just calmed down. It just—he got elected, and it was like, ‘Uh-uh. We don’t want to talk. We just want to run.’
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