I was just thinking that my detractors see me as a braggart when I mention being in martial arts since 1960 at age 12, they neglect to remember my statements that I learned to defend myself after seven years of abuse at the hands of mean and intolerant people, I was bullied because I was basically shy and passive in nature. When my father abandoned the family due to his alcoholism in the 1950’s, our family became targets for all kinds of unfortunate circumstances, my mother was so busy being a working single parent she couldn’t attend to all her four children’s needs. Paradoxically my father while “divorcing us” still tried to exercise some authority over us, by supervising us in outside chores or inspecting our progress in our massive garden, which we were expected to cultivate after school and on weekends. Our Alcoholic family was vulnerable to gossip and condescension, considered the poor divorced wife who whose husband had become a drunken nightmare, with four young kids left to the mercy of a broken home. Other child were less charitable and had bad and nasty expressions for our devastated family; usually made by a large loud energized group, and on their faces condescending snickers and disapproving looks of self-righteous arrogance.
When I turned aged 12 I had enough of this maltreatment, as the oldest male child it was constantly expressed that I was “The Man Of The House’, and therefore expected to watch out for my mother and siblings. We were expected to grow up to be proper Ladies and Gentlemen, be socially appropriate in any given situation, and always be respectful to elderly people regardless of their race or social circumstances. Black children were schooled to believe that young men and women were adults at age 12, yet still responsible to obeying their parents and elders. We were then accountable for our sins, and now if we died in a sinful state we could possibly go to Hell, and we had a series of Sins and Transgression to observe; Lying seemed to be the number one sin that would send us straight to Hell, Don’t Put Anything On Top Of The Bible, followed closely by tale bearing even though I heard more gossip at my church than at home or our party-line telephone, mistreatment of Black women and not guarding them from harm, a lot of our code of conduct came from the Old Testament of the Bible. We also had Colored Rules of Conduct to protect us in White Racist 1950’s Seattle, our elders didn’t believe politeness and civility would deflect racist treatment, but at least it might mitigate some of the anger paranoia and unsolicited violence against the Black victim.
Even to this day I will be polite without being solicitous, partially because that is my usual manner, but specifically because my elders would have beaten my behind today if they caught me acting ugly in public. So if you saw a truly Bad Black Kid they were almost beyond redemption, and I met one who threatened to take my life at a 12 year old girl’s birthday party. I conned my mother into believing I was sleeping over at a friend’s, we left from there to go a junior high school girl’s birthday party, my buddy and I wanted to meet up with some cute girls from school. Everything was going great but this party had more of an adult theme, with dimly lit red and blue bulbs and older adult records, some meant for bumping and grinding rather than youthful frolicking dances I knew. Then in walks the neighborhood Bad Guy and a murmur races through the party, this drunken menacingly large fellow who was about 18 or 19, sneered as he drunkenly staggered through the crowd and fixated directly on little 12 year old me. Bad Guy took out a revolver and put it up to my temple,
“I’m going to kill him!” he drunkenly barked.
“Please don’t kill him, he’s in my class at school!”, and a little junior high girl pleaded,
”Yeah. Listen to her, Please Don’t Kill Me!”, I quickly and loudly interjected.
Bad Guy lowered the gun and started chatting up the little girl, I instinctively ran out into the back yard and made a beeline for home, sprinting over the medium size backyard fences to the howls and laughter of the young kids.
Bad Guy was in a blackout like the ones I’d seen affect my father and other drunken adults (and later experienced myself over 12 years), I swore I’d never drink like that or become a drunken monster, who unconsciously one minute was willing to destroy the world, and the next oozing happiness and maniacal sentimentality. I further resolved to listen more closely to my mother from now on (like all teenage boys do), and heed her warnings to stay away from undisciplined, unruly boys, unfortunately after I started drinking at 17 I became “one of the kids our parents warned us against”. If I had continued on my drunken rampage I would have remained The Bad Guy, an embarrassment to my family, friends and community, possibly dead but even worse the living embodiment of a child of an alcoholic who self-destructed.