“Jerry!!! Get down here!!”
“I’m coming Mom. I’m brushing my teeth.” I yelled.
It was September 2nd, 1956 my first day as a junior at Cedar Hill High School. I was running a little bit late and my mom was angry. I rushed downstairs and grabbed a banana.
“Bye honey, have a good day today. Okay?” she said while kissing my forehead.
I ran out the door all the way to the bus stop. To be honest I was terrified.
Over this past summer there has been many riots about the school system. The blacks and the whites are finally going to school together. The white folks are not happy about this.
On my way to the bus stop I didn’t know if I was going to get a seat, or if the driver was going to let me on, or if the white kids were going to beat me up, or if-
“Yo! Wassup brother!”
My thoughts were interrupted by my best friend Derek Jones. Derek and I have been best friends since as long as I can remember. We’re neighbors. Most of us live around here in the same area. The other side of town is for the rich. A.K.A the white folks.
“Aye Derek! Eh to be honest I’m kinda nervous for today. How are we going to survive this year?”
“Yo Jerry loosin up a bit, will ya? Everything is going to be just fine, chill out and stop being so uptight. You’ll be fine, i’ll be fine, everyone else will be fine. It’s all good. Stop stressing bro.”
Derek is crazy. He is one of those “go with the flow” types of people. He never panics or stresses about anything! I don’t know how he does it, but he does and he’s right. Sometimes I wish I could be like that.
“Yeah, you’re right.” I said just as the bus turned the corner.
The bus driver almost went right passed us but stepped on the breaks really hard when he noticed. The door opened and I took a deep breath as Derek hit me on the back and walked onto the bus. I followed right after him.
“Why are they here?”
“This is disgusting. I feel disgusted.”
“I cannot believe my parents pay money for this school and this is happening.”
As soon as we stepped foot into the bus there were comments made about us and people laughing at us. Derek did not really care. He went straight to the back and took a seat. This all made me nervous.
The bus pulled up to the school and Derek and I got out. There were police cars and ambulances everywhere. People were all over the campus screaming and yelling trying to get passed the barricades. Yes. There were barricades because of how insane this was. The white folks were screaming about how we shouldn’t go to their school because we don’t have to pay and they do. They were screaming about how things should still be segregated and how this was atrocious. Police escorted everyone in.
“Alright Jerr, I’ll catch ya later I gotta go to Algebra.”
“Yeah bud, see you at lunch.”
This year I had no classes with Derek. How was I going to survive?
I made my way through the halls to get to room 109. I had chemistry first period. People were whispering things to each other, laughing, or even making gagging noises. I ignored it. I got to 109 and I took a seat at a table in the middle of the room. I was writing down some notes until I got pushed off the chair. I looked up to see a white kid standing there.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing? That is my seat. No one sits there, especially a black.” said the white kid.
This kid was tall, almost 6’5”. He had curly blonde hair and brown eyes. He was wearing khakis and a vineyard vines shirt. Preppy much?
I decided it would be a good idea to be like Derek… I was wrong.
“Does the chair say your name on it? No? I didn’t think so.” said the kid.
After I said that I got up and sat right back down. This time this kid flipped the chair next to me and then punched me in my face. I was angry now. I was pissed. I don’t really like to fight, but I never did anything wrong in the first place. I punched him back. But harder. Yup. A black punched a white back. I don’t know why I did that, BIG mistake. He grabbed me by my shirt and started full on punching me and kicking me. I was fighting back. I’ve never been in a fight like this one. I was bleeding. He was bleeding. Kids were screaming, some trying to break it up, others encouraging it. This was bad.
“MICHAEL SMITH!!! WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU DOING! HEY OTHER KID! STOP THIS NONSENSE RIGHT NOW BEFORE I HAVE YOU EXPELLED!”
Agh crap it was the Chemistry teacher Mrs. Anderson.
“Michael sit down right next to?...” said the teacher
“Jerry. My name is Jerry Johnson.”
“Alright Mr. Johnson, meet your new lab partner Michael Smith.”
“WHAT? NO WAY? You have got to be kidding me right?” yelled Michael
“No I am not kidding you Michael.” said Mrs. Anderson
“UGH! This day cannot get any worse” replied Michael
“Since it is the first day of school and you have new lab partners, there is a project due tomorrow! After school today you and your partner are going to ask each other 15 questions to get to know them!” the teacher told them.
“OH MY GOD. I was wrong, this day did just get worse.” Michael mumbled.
“So... do you want to go to my house after school to work on the questions?” I asked.
“No. I refuse to go to your side of town. You’ll come over to my house after school.”
It was 2:30 and I had just arrived at Michael’s house. His house was huge. I rang the doorbell and nobody answered. I rang it again and I heard some yelling. Michael opened the door.
“Let’s get this dumb project over with.” he said looking angry.
I walked into his house. The ceiling was huge and it seemed like the staircase was going up forever. I looked to the left and saw what looked to be Michael’s dad. There were beer cans and whisky bottles surrounding him.
“Look away!” said Michael angrily.
I wondered, why is there so much hate when we are just people? We all have our problems even though some people might seem perfect, we aren’t.
As time went by we were almost done with our projects but, I just had to ask Michael a really personal question.
“Is your dad an alcoholic?” I asked.
“What? No. You can’t just ask that” Michael said.
He sounded mad.
“Look bro, I’m sorry. But I just don’t understand why there is so much hate. It’s just I have a different skin color than you. Yeah, you may have more money, fanicer things, and a better life but it doesn’t matter in the end because we are all just people. We aren’t perfect and we have our ways to deal with things. We shouldn’t, or you shouldn’t hate on blacks because you aren’t perfect. We are all just people in the world trying to get by. I know this is hard and whatnot with the new school but we can just ignore it and live our lives”. I replied.
I had to say it. It’s the truth.
“I never thought about it like that. You’re right. Wow. I never thought I would say that or agree to something like that. Michael said while chuckling.
And ever since that day we hung out almost all the time after school with Derek. These days in school were the greatest times of our lives. We did have our ups and downs especially with the parents and students but everything was worth it. All three of us pkayed baseball during the spring. We were undefeated and became the best High School team in the state.
High school flew by and before you know it college came. We both ended up going to the same college. Segregation was still a problem during this time. Some schools and classes did not allow black people to attend, or restaurants, or libraries or other public places but we ignored it. Life was great and we knew we were just people with a different skin color trying to get by.
We Are All Just People
“Jerry!!! Get down here!!”