“Just leave me alone. I’ll leave you alone. We’ll be good.”
Transcript for Caught in the Crossfire
I think that like, all of us live this shared experience, but we see things differently, obviously. It’s like old—we all touch this elephant, and we have different parts of it, and we don’t know the other part. And I think by sharing that, people can understand a little bit better of what somebody else may be experiencing. Even though we’re in the same—maybe the same community, the same city, the same region, but by sharing it, we get to kind of like, understand at least a little bit. I don’t have these pie-in-the-sky dreams, but at least a little bit, like, “Oh. He saw things this way. That’s interesting.”
Well, Gary, Indiana. Come on. What’s the first knee-jerk reaction you or anybody else has about Gary, Indiana? We all have our preconceived stereotypes, our notions, our prejudices. I’ve done public presentations, and I’ll say, ‘Who’s from Gary?’ And, ‘What’s your first instinct about Gary, whether you’re from there or not?’ And people are fast to have a reaction. Fast. They don’t hesitate. they don’t even hesitate to say, ‘Oh, it’s a horrible—it’s a dump. It’s poverty-stricken. It’s gangs, and it’s crime, and who’d want to live there?’ Others say, ‘Oh, it’s beautiful. Back in the ‘50s it was the model city. It was “The Miracle City.”’ It was literally called ‘The Miracle City’ back then.
They were mad. Mad. Angry. And they’re still mad. I’ve written a book called Lost Gary, and I’ve talked to people at presentations, and they’re still mad. Decades later, they were like, kicked out—they were forced to leave their city, is how they view it.
I get why they’re angry. And I’ve talked to probably hundreds of them by now with—for my book project to realize why they’re so angry. They were raised, and had this idyllic, they viewed, idyllic existence. and that got ended. And they had to blame somebody. We—as a human condition factor, we have to blame somebody for our problems, and woes, and troubles, and it’s an easy thing to blame. “The blacks are coming in, the whites are moving out.” That’s exactly how they equate it. And I still talk to people to this day—it’s 2016, almost 2017, and people are still—have that methodology in their mind. That’s their explanation, their rationalization. Simple as that. And they involve Richard Hatcher, the mayor of Gary, who started all that, and Black Power, and everything else, and you can’t wash that away. You can’t wipe that away. And if I engage with people—which I have done, especially through my columns, and I’ll purposely antagonize them to get a dialogue out of them—I won’t get very far. That’s all there is. That’s their reality. That’s their absoluteness. They won’t go any farther than that. They see it in very black and white. The colors of gray has no hues in their world.
Yeah I’ve talked to a lot of black population in Gary, and I love talking with these people. I enjoy it much more than talking with the white population who left Gary, to be honest, because they’re still there, and they’re still dealing with a lot of these problems and issues, and I give them just so much credit for still being there. You know, they could leave, too. Anybody can leave this existence if you want to. You just leave. But they’re not, and they’re determined to stay there, and to this day—and yeah, they have animosity, but I think they have less animosity, and more kindness, I think, in their hearts, so to speak, for whatever reason. Maybe because they’ve been oppressed. Maybe because it’s their city, and they’re proud of their city, still. You know, it’s not their former city; they’re not natives of Gary—they’re—they live in Gary. They’re from Gary. “We’re from Gary.” And because of my job, I had this total advantage of interviewing both sides, and getting caught in the crossfire, and take some shrapnel from it, and I don’t mind that at all because I love doing it. And I love hearing both sides. Which makes my black and white world very gray.
Hold a Conversation
Can you imagine leading a conversation about this story? Where? With whom? What kinds of questions would you pose? (See How to use the questions for reflection for one approach.) Please email your questions to us or post them in the comment box for our consideration. If you use them in an actual discussion, let us know how the conversation went.