February 26, 2017

THE RACISM THIS JEW HAS ENDURED!

WHY LET RACISM AFFECT YOU

RACISM ISN’T ONLY AGAINST THE ONES YOU THINK

I’m going to lay out for you the racism I have received, how it happened, who did it, what age I was at the time, how I may or may not have responded and how it never affected my thoughts about others.  Age 2-5

I lived in the low rent Projects on the lower east side of Manhattan. Contrary to what people believe today, the Projects were very different then (1950-1954). What Low Rent Projects meant at its inception was a Federal, State, County or City employee. It was a nice safe place to live, filled with Policemen, Firemen, etc. My father worked for the Post Office. par

There were people of all races, and many languages were spoken. Everyone kept the Projects clean and took pride in living there. In 1954 the law was changed about who could live there, and the downfall of Low Rent Projects began. Even a kid my age could notice garbage all over, and not being allowed to go outside alone. This forced my family to move to a Jewish neighborhood in the Bronx.par

FIRST GRADE

The school was located two bocks from a Low Rent Project. At that time that meant most Negro and Puerto Rican kids, with a spattering of Whites went to my school. I say Negro because that was the term used at the time.

In New York City the top class was 1-1, second was 1-2 and so on. When you are just starting school they really don’t know who is what, but I ended up in 1-1. I turned out to be the #1 student, but I learned a lot more. The class was made up of mostly Whites (Jewish), and then Negros and the smallest group was Puerto Ricans. The thing I learned most (not PC to say, but) was that the Jewish kids wanted to learn the most, with the exception of two Negro boys. par

What was learned next was that the Negro kids wanted to fight most of all, next came the Puerto Rican’s and lastly the Jews. When the Negro kids started a fight, there usually were more of them than their opponents. I admit to being on the losing end of many fights, and the winners would usually say; “you think you’re better, huh!” It seemed these Negro kids knew how to fight better, and desired to win more. They showed they had more to prove; how was a first grader to understand that. The two Negro boys that were very smart didn’t fight. Still I was friends with them, and the ones that beat me up. Maybe I wasn’t so smart. para

SECOND

After two months of being the best student in the 2-1 class, I decided I wanted two go to a private Jewish school, called a Yeshiva. My reasoning for this was very simple, my two best friends were going to school there. We weren’t a very religious family, but I wanted to be with my best friends. There were big problems for me; my friends were in the third grade, and my transcripts didn’t arrive for over a month. I went from being the smartest to the dumbest kid just by arriving.par

A big shock for me was going to my first Hebrew class; I had no idea at that time that there were Negro Jews. Getting home, I asked my father about there being Negro Jews. He explained to me that color has nothing to do with religion, and color should never have to do with anything. The school was very peaceful, but a big change was brewing.par

THE RETURN TO PUBLIC SCHOOL

Help-Help, I had to get out of the Yeshiva, we arrived home too late to play ball. The work also took up too much time. Try learning three languages at one time, English, Hebrew and Jewish. Not being able to play ball was killing me, kind of. I transferred back to my Public School, and found a big problem facing me. My 2-1 class had no openings, and the class I was placed in was 2-7. That was the slowest learning class in the grade, and I was the only White kid. I thought nothing of being the only white, but I did have a problem with not learning anything.par

It did get worse. Every time the teacher left the room, I found myself surrounded by my classmates. I knew this wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience. Before beating me up they always said; you’re different, and why do you wear a star on your chain? Even those that I considered friends joined in at beating me up. I never told the teacher or my parents of this, I had to suck it up like a man. Unfortunately the teacher left the room at least once daily. She knew what was happening, because I was crying every time she returned to the classroom. She would ask; what’s wrong, Harvey? My response was always; nothing!par

Years later I heard African-American leaders say “We can’t be racist, because we don’t have the power!” I could never understand this, because I faced 41 to 1 odds. Who had the power now!paar

THIRD GRADE

A couple of friends and I went to the park across the street from my building one spring day. We had our baseball gloves, a bat and a ball. Before we arrived at the baseball field, we were jumped by about fifteen White boys. They were around sixteen years old and pulled our baseball equipment away from us. Calling us, “Jew Boys!” They held our arms out, and hit us with their fists and our bat.par

When they were finished, they simply dropped our equipment on the ground, laughed and walked away. We were trying to be tough and hold back our tears, but each of us knew the others were crying. We picked up our belongings, went to the field and played.par

FOURTH GRADE

Once again on the baseball field we numbered about ten, and we were having fun playing ball. Seemingly out of the sky came a bunch of arrows. None of us were hit by the arrows, but we pulled one out of the ground. As in the  Westerns we had seen, they were steel tipped, and shot by a bow. A screaming voice came from atop a hill; “I missed you Jews this time but I have many more arrows!” I guess we ran faster than the arrows flew, they didn’t hit any of us. He was a White man about 50 years old.par

SUMMER VACATION AFTER THE FIFTH GRADE

Who goes to Florida for the summer? ME! I went to stay with my Catholic relatives, that lived in a Baptist neighborhood. The whole neighborhood thought the Catholic’s were well down on the totem poll; but a Jew! I found what their thoughts were over time, but I had a really good time with the boys living near us. At that age in summer time, all a boy wants to do is play baseball. I happened to be a very good player, and fit in with the crowd. Of course I was repeatedly asked the same question; are all Jews as good as you? I didn’t give it a thought; in fact I took it as a compliment. In those days we weren’t PC, and I would still take it as a compliment. But the adults gave me something to think about.par

ADULTS CAN BE VERY DUMB TO A KID

It was strange to me that when I was introduced to an adult, they all rubbed my head. Every young boy has this happen, but not by every adult they meet. I asked my cousin that I was staying with; why did every person do this to me? I’m still taken by her answer. “These people have never met a Jew before, and they want to find out if you have horns. You’re lucky they didn’t pat your rear?” I had to ask, why would they do that? She replied; “To find out if you have a tail.” This was all very weird to me; they had all seemed like normal people. I felt like going to a costume store to buy these things, but my cousin advised against it. I forgot to mention that everyone was White.par

FRESHMAN YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL

I was the only one shooting baskets at the courts behind the Old Yankee Stadium, which wasn’t unusual. A White guy and a Puerto Rican guy about eighteen years old, sat down and watched me shoot. After about fifteen minutes I realized they were standing on both sides of me, and they pinned me up against a fence. The Puerto Rican said; hey Jew Boy, give us your money!” The White guy pulled out a knife and held it against my chest. Scared and not being able to do anything to them, I pulled out all the money I had and dropped in the Puerto Rican’s hand. He looked down at his hand and screamed; “forty cents!”par

The White guy said; we know you Jews have money, where’s the rest of it?” I told them the forty cents was my lunch money, and there wasn’t any more. The White guy asked what I was gonna eat for forty cents? This was the mid 1960’s, and prices were a lot lower. I told them I was going to the hot dog vendor (a cart) and was going to get a hot dog for twenty-five cents and a soda for fifteen cents. The two looked at each other, and were silent for a minute. Then the White guy said; “you Jewish guys really are cheap!” He told the Puerto Rican to give me the money back; “he needs it more than we do.”par

SOPHOMORE YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL

Three of my friends and I were at our local pizza shop having lunch. A crowd of about seven boys (all Puerto Rican) walked over to us, and naturally the shortest one spoke. He asked one of my friends; “Hey, you’se a Jew?” He was afraid to speak, so the short guy asked a second friend of mine; you’se a Jew? He actually said; NO! Then he moved on to me asking; “how’s about you?” I stood up (four inches above him) and said; “yeah!” par

His boys behind him pulled knives out of their pockets. Was I going to fight with my “meatball sandwich?” The owner of the pizza place knew my friends and me, and mostly didn’t want any trouble in his restaurant. He rushed over, pushing a couple of the Puerto Rican guys aside. Standing in front of us he pulled out a large meat cleaver and, yelled in Italian for his workers to help him. It didn’t take long before there were no Puerto Ricans in the restaurant. We never saw them in our neighborhood again.par

SENIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL

Seniors had their own gym class; it was supposed to be easier, because you pretty much did what you wanted to. Basketball was pretty much the choice of most, I was in that group. Since we were the largest Public School in the nation (over 7,500, all boys), our regular gym was quite large and there were many baskets. But the senior gym was small and cozy, you had to be very good to get into a game. I was always the first White guy chosen to play. The school was #1 in the country in basketball, and I had beaten out over 3,000 guys in the tryouts. Many times I was guarded by a Puerto Rican kid my height, but about twenty pounds heavier. He constantly fouled me while playing, and one day he tried to start a fight with me. Most fights with guys start with pushing and he pushed me first saying; “come on Jew Boy, you know you’re gonna get your ass kicked!” I had to go after him when he said that. We both got in a couple of punches before the fight was broken up.par

One friend asked me if I knew who the hell the other guy was. The answer was, no. I was told he was the leader of a large Puerto Rican gang; I was so glad the fight was broken up. After that we played against each other many times, and there was never anything close to a fight. One time he saw one of his guys arguing with me, he told his guy to back off; I guess I had earned his respect.par

I did get back at some of my assailants, but I can’t say how.

WAS COLLEGE GOING TO BE DIFFERENT?

I went from the Bronx to a state school in the south-west, the size of the school was not intimidating at all. The vast percentage of the university was like a human being was supposed to be (in those days), but there were and always will be those that aren’t. I met many people that had never met a Jew before, most were a pleasure to meet. Then there were those that weren’t worth meeting.par

FRESHMAN YEAR IN COLLEGE

Why do so many racial things occur in sports; it happened again. I had joined a Jewish fraternity, and it was football season. In this state football comes after G-D. My pledge team was to play a pledge team from a White Christian house that had twice as many people as we did. They were also much larger, and had better athletes. The outcome was going to be obvious to all, the only question was; how much were they going to win by?par

On the field there were many comments of; “let’s kill those Jews!” It became apparent after they started winning that they were out to hurt as many of our guys as possible, and they did. I was not a big guy, 5’10 155 but I decided some of them had to pay for this. It didn’t matter how big any of them were, I was out to do any damage I could.par

After the game I had to be taken to the Emergency Room, where I met up with four guys (from the other team) I had sent there. There were no serious injuries, but until school came to an end for me guys I didn’t recognize would call out my name. I guess that was a form of respect or memory.par

SOPHOMORE YEAR OF COLLEGE

Now I was a brother (member) of my fraternity, but many had left the house, so they could get an apartment. Once again it was football season but with me as quarterback, we actually won half of our games. I wasn’t the only reason for this. But I digress to a particular game. The opposing house had five times as many guys as we did; the outcome was evident before we started. They were undefeated and we were trying to win any game.par

I had a particular problem with this fraternity as the game began. They were a White very Christian house, but many are not what they say they are. Everyone belonging to a Fraternity goes to their games. This meant they had five times as many people rooting for them. At all games everyone brings a girlfriend or a girl they were dating to cheer for their house, but it’s hard to cheer when you expect to lose badly.par

Our quarterback, me was easy to find. I had always been a flashy player wearing white shoes when everyone wore black, wearing a headband and being the only one wearing one. This year something extra had been thrown in. I had grown my hair half way down my back, and had put it in a pony tail. Looking like this in the south-west in those days you always heard; “FAGGOTT!”par

This was touch football, meaning no tackling. I think they forgot to tell that to the other team. From the stands guys and gals yelled; “kill the Jews, especially the Fagot quarterback!” The same thing was being said on the field. I was tackled time and again, but the referee’s never called a penalty. The game was tied at halftime and they were very embarrassed, that’s when they really wanted to hurt me.par

Not only was I tackled, but they pulled me down by my hair and piled on. While lying at the bottom of the pile I would hear; “is the F***ing Jew dead yet?” Again I knew I was going to go to the ER, but I was going to make sure I knew someone there. After our losing effort I met a couple of guys from the other team at the ER. I smiled when I saw them. I also lost some hair.par

JUNIOR YEAR IN COLLEGE

Football season again, ah yes. Besides playing quarterback (we had no one better) I played defensive back. For you football fans, those were the days of the bump and run. One game I had to guard a split end that was all-state, an injury kept him from playing college ball. One might say I was quite nervous with my assignment.par

On the first play from scrimmage I got right across from him with my arms down. As soon as the ball was snapped, I lifted my arms, and hit him in the chest. The force of the blow sent him backwards, where he lay on the ground starring at me. I gained a lot of confidence, as anyone would have. The next play the same thing happened, and he called me “a dirty Jew!” I couldn’t understand why such an accomplished player wouldn’t do something to get around me, and his comment infuriated me. On the following play we lined up the same way, I was hoping to pummel him this time.par

When the ball was hiked I started to raise my arms, but he took a step back. He got his leverage, and punched me in the face, I didn’t flinch. I had no idea I could take an unexpected punch like that. Forgetting about the football game I grabbed his jersey and pulled him very close to me, let’s say nose to nose. I looked him straight in the eyes and said; “you’ve already thrown your best punch and it did nothing, do you really want to fight? This little Jew can annihilate you! ” He walked back to his team’s huddle and never came out on my side gain.par

MORE IN MY JUNIOR YEAR

Believe it or not, this isn’t a football story. One day I was walking down fraternity row by myself, no big deal. I was not dressed in the style most guys dressed at my school. Wearing a pair of sneakers, bell bottom jeans, a tank top shirt, little sun glasses, very long hair and a fraternity shirt I wasn’t expecting any trouble. Suddenly a shot rang out, and I heard a ping on the ground near me. I looked around and saw nothing but fraternity houses. Then another shot rang out, and I heard a ping on the ground closer to me. A reflection led my eyes to an open window at a fraternity house, where I saw a guy with a rifle. He yelled out; “I’ll get you, you fagot Jew!” I needed someone to check if I had wet my pants. I started running, and must have gotten out of his view.par

I breathed deeply, and saw about twenty-five guys standing in front of their fraternity house yelling something at me. I was a fraternity guy and did not expect this treatment. When they got close enough I could make-out what they were saying; “get the fagot Jew”  My fraternity shirt had our Greek letter’s on the front of the shirt, which made it obvious that I was Jewish. I started running with them close behind. Pretty soon they were all eating my dust. This fagot Jew ran a ten flat hundred, which was fast for those days. My fraternity house was now only three blocks away; what else could go wrong?par

A car almost hit me from the rear as I walked in the street; I had to jump out of the way. The car stopped, and a beer can flew out of the cars open window. I could here a drunken guy mumbling; “I’ll get you, you lousy Jew!” He put the car in reverse and tried to run me over again, luckily to no avail. I ran the last three blocks very quickly saying to myself; this was too much for a twenty minute span. The driver of the car must have heard what the crowd chasing me had been yelling., to know I was Jewish. Opening the door to my fraternity house, I went inside and closed the door quickly. I placed my body against the door and screamed; “HELP!” The scariest twenty minutes of my young life was over, but there was more racism to come.par

SENIOR YEAR IN COLLEGE

Once again this had nothing to do with sports. For the past year or more I had become very good friends with a very attractive girl a year younger than myself. We hung out all the time, we went out constantly for cokes (the drink), hamburgers and whatever was called for. I went to her sorority house, and she came to my fraternity house. Since I played guitar and sang, she had heard me do this often. I played at the local clubs, not a good guitarist, but an excellent singer. That’s another story. We were always seen snuggling or holding hands, but we never kissed on the lips. One day I decided I should ask her out, boy was that a mistake.par

I went to her sorority house and we sat on a couch. I told her that we were always together and I thought she was so beautiful. I believed this would be a great lead in, and I had said this many times. I told her we should go to the movies on Saturday night, but I wasn’t ready for her answer. The look on her face said it all, but the words cannot be forgotten. “I can’t go on a date with you; I’m a good Baptist girl from Oklahoma, and you’re a New York Jew!” This was a person that had been a close friend for over a year; her own words said what a racist she was. Naturally we didn’t go on a date, and our (so called) friendship was over. A surprising transformation by her was to come.par

As I said earlier, I sang at clubs around the University and my following was getting larger. Playing with a female partner as the regular entertainment in a particular club, we loved it. The sorority girl (from above) came to the club one night, with several sorority sisters. They sat at a table near the stage, and she made sure I noticed her. When my partner and I took a break, I decided to get some fresh air. The girl I mentioned followed me outside from behind, so I couldn’t see her.par

She grabbed me from behind turning me around, and pressed me against the wall and herself. Realizing it was her, I wanted to hear what she was going to say. She moved her face close to mine and said; “I really want to go home with you, I’ll do anything you want!” If what she had said before was shocking, I have no words for her newest comment. All I could muster up was; what did you say?” Her response was, “I saw you on stage and thought you were great, I have to have you!” I was totally sickened by her, and reminded her that she had heard me sing many times. Her answer was; “but never on stage, I saw the real talent you have. My sorority sisters and I were fighting over who should go home with you.” Yes my ego was totally inflated, but I had to deal with this FORMER friend that didn’t think a Jewish guy was good enough for her.par

Finally it came to me. I told her I would make a tape for her of me playing and singing. Her face showed how excited the though of this had made her. I held her and pulled her close to me. Speaking softly I said; “put the tape under your pillow so you can feel me with you every night, because that’s the only way you will ever get me in bed!” I softly pushed her away, and went back into the club. I never saw her again. I wanted her badly, but a man has to have principals.pr

All these issues in college were with White people. Here’s hoping your life didn’t contain any of these happenings.The strange thing is that I ended up taking this as if it happens to everyone, so no big deal.

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