Day 135: I Was Horrified, Befuddled and Heartsick to Hear Kids Were Beaten. Being Dismissed Doesn’t Help Longevity or Super-Aging

Sorry. I’m a day late with this posting. Normally, my postings have been about overcoming negatives or choosing positives. This was difficult to write about because I was STUCK in horror and befuddlement at this time. I was heartsick at what was happening at my new high school teaching position. I felt terribly alone. All of the other teachers at Proviso East High School where the “race riot”– (little protest) was happening were silent and acted in agreement with the administration who definitely wanted to quell any protest by violence.

And violence there was! The account on Wikipedia says there were 50 policemen brought into the building. I remember that the first few days there were 100 policemen patrolling the halls and standing at postings at every door, every stair well and almost every classroom. They had and used Mace too frequently.  They didn’t carry the usual short night sticks that policemen carried at the time. They had thick long riot sticks. They looked menacing. I do not remember any of them being Afro-Americans! Again I was horrified, befuddled and heartsick.

There were over 120 teachers of the 3400 students. There were only two black teachers on staff. That in itself is quite a statement since there were hundreds of black students. These two were a married couple from Atlanta with tenure. They were silent about the treatment of black students and as was said often at that time they could have been called “reverse Oreos”.  Everyone on staff seemed to be against the kids who were protesting. The concept of there being a lack of rights was dismissed.

In these first two weeks at my new teaching assignment, I was also befuddled by the fact that within the student body there was a distinct 3 class system:

There were the black students, many of whom had college educated parents holding middle class positions in businesses or teaching in the Chicago School System. A few were poor with parents serving in low income positions.

The upper middle class white students (even girls) were referred to as “Kenny College” kids.

The second generation Eastern European kids where almost all of the fathers were factory workers and laborers called themselves “Greasers” or “Greaser girls”.  The boys actually dressed in factory worker “uniforms”: either royal or navy blue cotton pants with matching shirts or grey pants and shirts. The girls dressed like the “Kenny College” girls. The few Hispanic students were accepted into this group.

As a student of a graduate school Human Relations course co-taught at Ball State University in conjunction with the NAACP, B’nai B’rith and Dr. Henry Jeep I understood that more conversations were needed.

The school didn’t seem to want those conversations to happen. I offered to help to work with the Illinois Human Relations Committee at the school and was dismissed with a: “Thank you, Miss Pippenger, we are handling this sitution.”

Being dismissed stops vitality. Thankfully I came home each night to the liberal, brilliant Chusid family who encouraged me. They filled me with hope and vitality to keep understanding the situation and seek fairness for everyone.

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