Junior High Race Riot, 1978

In the cafeteria at lunch, people are saying there's going to be a fight between the blacks and the whites in the parking lot behind the bike shop next to the school (Washington Junior High, Rock Island, Illinois). My friends and I don't really believe it because it's such a silly idea for people to fight each other just because their skin colors are different. (Not all my friends thought that, but I thought they all did.)

But people keep talking about the fight, and pretty soon it sounds like it's real. The rumor is that a black kid pushed a crippled white kid down the stairs in his wheelchair, and there's going to be a fight. Some say it's the football players that are going to fight each other, black against white. It's going to happen in the parking lot behind the bike shop across the street from the school.

So after school my friends and I wander over to the parking lot. We all want to see whether there's really going to be a fight. The parking lot is full of white kids and black kids milling about, also waiting to see whether there's going to be a big fight. At this point in my life, I'm a puny, brainy, white kid with glasses, and none of my friends can do much to protect me if a melee ensues.

Then the nerdiest of the school administrators shows up with a bullhorn and shoos everyone away.

September 2001

Washingtion Junior High is a public school.