While I have begun the next book – one about my life in Mexico–while waiting for the first one to be published–I am stuck. Not because I don’t know what comes next in the story, but rather because I don’t know what comes next after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. We have had protests in Kansas City as I’m sure most of you have experienced or at least heard about. I am too old to join them. This is theirs; mine were many years ago.
What I’m particularly remembering is a protest, turning violent with police charging in, in which I was a participant. I was in my late twenties and living in Los Angeles, working at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel as a waiter, and searching for contacts in the film world. I was also lovely, thin, and willowy, but then, most are in their twenties. And I had a mane of blond hair. And blue eyes. I still have blue eyes but the blond hair and willowy figure have gone the way of aging.
So anyway, this was in the middle of the Johnson years when people were protesting the war in Vietnam. There were huge protests in those years, too, and many turned violent. The President was coming to Los Angeles for some dinner at a swanky hotel (not the Roosevelt) and a huge crowd of people came out to protest. I was among them. As the helicopters whirred overhead bringing in the President and others, the protest grew really loud and there was a surge forward. With helicopters whirring overhead and the crowd disoriented in the downdraft, the police moved in.
I began running and dodging sideways through the crowd when I came face to face with a very large policeman holding a billy club aloft and about to swing it. I held up one arm, said, “Please don’t hit me…I’m going.” And he didn’t. I left safely. Many others did not.
My reason for writing this and remembering this in the time of protests over Mr. Floyd’s death is because, while at the time I didn’t think about it, was, rather, simply grateful, now I wonder if the policeman lower his billy club because I said please or because I was a pretty white woman.
I suspect the latter.
I come from a family of six white farm kids from Kansas. But our children have reached into the world: one married a Korean, one a Mexican, one an African American, one a Filipino, and one a Native American. My great-grandson is Filipino/Korean/Caucasian. When my granddaughter said, “I see the Korean part and the Filipino part but I don’t see the Caucasian part,” I said, “Just wait, The white part is the crazy part.” And I hope he grows up as free and crazy as his great-grandma did. I expect he will.