Knowing You're Being Played Doesn't Change the Game
I never knew any black people in Bellingham. There weren't any. All I knew of black people was from sports, TV, movies, music, and Black History Month. In sports, blacks were the best athletes. On TV and in movies, blacks were cool and smarter than white guys who were usually dumb, dorky, or jerks. In music, blacks were all about sex. They had a lot of it, and black guys got the hottest girls, white ones, Asians, super models, too; and in history, blacks were a cruelly mistreated people who we owed a lot to because they had done all the work of making America rich, and got nothing but racism and poverty for their trouble.
But when the buses rolled into camp filled with over two hundred blacks, a hundred men and women each and maybe fifty children, the faces of the adults around me fell flat. They all looked stunned.
Someone murmured, "Dear God almighty, what're we gonna do?"
Because the people getting off the buses weren't dressed in suits and ties or wearing nice dresses or blouses and slacks. The men wore dirty white Tee shirts or grey sweatshirts with hoods and dark baggy pants falling down and the fattest sneakers on their feet I ever saw. The women were generally hefty from chubby to jumbo and dressed in an assortment of garish colors impossibly tight with tops that had to be stretched beyond what nylon and elastic was capable of, and short skirts or shorts that looked to be stuffed with a dozen smoked hams.
There were some girls my age in the camp, one of whom I thought quite a lot about when I lay on my bunk in our quarters. She was lithe and small and sweetly bulged in places I longed to put my hands on, but these black women with boobs the size of small watermelons and rear ends the size of a pair of giant watermelons were the greatest anti-sex image I will ever see. They made the idea of sex terrifying; not to mention their ratty hair, broad fat faces, broad noses and big lips from which such ugly noises came from, and dark eyes from which dark, mean looks came from.
I noticed that they didn't have wristbands but ankle bracelets with a thick pack on it.
Their small children were wild and dressed raggedly and dirty, while older ones were either loud in speech or sullen in attitude.
Most of the men, though, were not like the women. They looked trim and athletic. Some were fat, but most looked mean and fit.
For the moment, they stood as a group in an open part of the camp among newer piles of lumber and building materials, and stood staring at us as if wondering what planet they'd been dropped onto, but then I could hear one say, "Lookit dem white folks lookin' at us. Whassa mattah? Ain' we good enuff foh ya's?" And she and the people around her laughed.
"Foh sho! Ya white folks gonna show me ta mah new house," another called out having looked around at the buildings behind where we were standing.
Just then Major Milligan, Captain Jones, and a number of soldiers, male and female appeared. The Major stood on a pile of plywood and gave them the same message he'd given us when first arriving. But he was constantly interrupted by calls for better food, warmer clothing, insults and slurs flung out. He ignored them, passed out the Plans and instructions for them to build their own living quarters, and then left.
"Wha' dar we s'posed a do wif dese thin's? Ah don' know nuffin' 'bout buildin' nuffin."
"Ah wanna eat! Where's mah f***kin' food, fools!"
Captain Jones came over to us and asked Rusty and some others to give a tour to a group of blacks and show them the bathhouses, the Mess and Rec Halls, and the washing room. He corralled half a dozen of the black men, in their twenties and early thirties, I guess, and introduced them to Rusty as the Chief of the Camp. He told them they would be shown some of the amenities available to them. Rusty then led them away to tour our facilities.
A number of the black men and women crossed over to us demanding we tell them where there food was at, and weren't we going to build them houses. If not, maybe they'd just help themselves to ours.
A number of our people like my dad and mom tried to explain how they could get started, how'd they even help them, but those they spoke to had no patience for listening. They said they didn't know how to do this or that so what did it matter if you white folks told us how since they couldn't do it anyway.
A table had been set up by the soldiers to dole out mush to them, tarps had been set up for them to sleep under with blankets and the same thin mattresses we had. The blacks, I can't say lined up for the food, rather they swarmed the table with a lot of pushing and complaining about being pushed, loudly demanding their rations first.
"It's mah turn! Mah turn!" many would yell, and children couldn't get past the scrum and begun wailing or shrieking and people would scream at them to shut up or they'd hit them into next year.
The group that went with Rusty returned to the mob scene and started to tell others about the kind of food we got to eat.
"Enuf of dis muss. Ah wan' what da whi' peoples be eatin'. Gimme sum of dem whi' peoples foo, fool!" Some began to holler at the soldiers trying to dole out their meals.
"Gimme dat whi' foo'. Whi' foo'!"
Others joined and took up the cry, "Whi' foo'! Whi' foo'! Whi' foo'! Whi' foo'!"
The soldiers took the big pots of mush by the handles and began to leave with them.
"Whar ya go'n' wid our foo'? Das our foo'! Gibbid back! Gibbid back!"
And that became their new joint cry.
A few women went after the soldiers while others followed as the women made a grab at their arms for the big pots, but then they screamed and fell down, grabbing at their ankles where the bracelets were fastened.
Captain Jones immediately appeared. "Shut up! SHUT UP! All of you!"
The crowd of them became quiet except for some children still wailing and crying.
"Are you ready to behave yourselves?" Jones demanded. No response. Which was good. "If so, you will each receive your ration. If not, you can go hungry."
No one said anything so Jones gestured to the soldiers to resume their duty of feeding the people. As they began to swarm the table again, Jones told them, "Get in line!"
"You folks," Jones said turning to us, "best go about your business. Until their quarters are built, they have no kitchen, bathhouse, washing, or recreation privileges."
I could feel a great sigh of relief from around me. That would be from me, too.
I found myself muttering, who are these people? And what are they? I was shocked, and I wasn't alone. Some of the guys from my building crew, and the younger ones came up to me.
"Can you believe those people?" Jack, a kid my age, said to all of us. The little kids looked kind of scared or worried. Well, we were all worried, for sure.
I nodded. "We need a plan."
"Like what?" Buster asked. We called him Buster. That wasn't his name.
"Like stick together, right?" I replied. Everybody nodded.
We took it a step further. We organized all the kids on our side, seventy of us, into groups. We had some older teens, and those guys told all us other boys that it was our job to protect the girls no matter what, and to watch each other's backs. They thought we should learn to wrestle and fight, too, and the girls should learn to use whatever was handy, just in case.
Ron, an eighteen year old, and I asked to see Captain Jones and got permission.
"What can I do for you boys?" he said as we sat down across from him at his desk.
"We want to build a gym," Ron told him.
"Yeah, and we want equipment for boxing and wrestling, and martial arts."
"That's interesting. It's a good idea to want to be fit and acquainted with manly sport and defensive arts," he said agreeably. "What about instruction, though? Do you have anyone who can train you in these things?"
"I don't know any men in the camp who know these things," I said. "We could ask, I guess, but I'd rather not. Why can't we learn from videos?"
The captain frowned. "It's too easy to get things wrong, and get hurt. You'll get hurt somewhat, anyway, but we want to avoid injuries that should not happen at all. This kind of thing needs hands on close supervision and coaching."
"What do you suggest?" Ron asked.
"I don't think your parents would like it."
"Because I'd like to have my men and women teach you. They're trained in these things, but your parents don't like us, and no doubt, don't want us training their children like we train our own. You have to admit that they have good reason to feel that way."
Ron and I looked at each other. I frowned at what the captain said.
"Besides," he said. "You don't need to build a gym. We have one of our own to maintain fitness and readiness. Here's what I can do: anyone, that includes adults, is welcome to come to the gym three evenings a week for training. I'll set it all up. Just assemble at the guardhouse Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at eighteen thirty hours. Uh, that's six thirty. Okay?"
"My dad can't stop me," Ron told him as we stood up to leave. "I'm too old for him to order me. Same with the other guys my age. We can learn and teach the kids if we have to."
It didn't go down like that, though. When word came that they were ready the next Wednesday, there was a crowd of fifty kids and a dozen adults at the guardhouse ready to go out.
Something we didn't know at the time was that the bigger shock bands on the blacks served a variety of purposes. One was to monitor a cascade of bio-chemicals that were precursors to violence so that they could prevent assaults and murders. They didn't worry about rapes because the men received a cocktail of drugs through their skin that chemically castrated them. An anti-Viagra, you could call it.
The women were made infertile as a precaution, anyway.
The men complained among themselves about their impotence. Even though they understood something caused it, most likely the ankle bands or food, they thought, they still believed they could overcome it by will power or some magic. Since the effect of mature women in playing with their members did nothing for them, a number decided that little girls would do the trick.
Since they had no enclosed shelter, the NAR caught on to the molestations quickly through video surveillance in the Camp. The men who were caught were removed from Camp, but neither the blacks nor we knew what happened to them. One of the soldiers said, "Hard labor" when I asked him.
While we were organizing ourselves, some of the black men were, too. One thirty year old, DaSean Jenks, very dark with short dreadlocks, was trying to form a gang, but had nothing to offer anyone in return for following him, but he convinced his people that they should take over the whites' living quarters.
The next day, while most of us were at work in the fields or around the Camp, all the blacks moved into our rooms.
Naturally, we thought the NAR would do something about it. Rusty and the Council went to see the Major.
"What do you want me to do about it?" the Major asked.
"Move 'em out. Shock 'em, whatever."
"It's your Camp. You're in charge of your people."
"I'm not in charge of those people," Rusty told him.
"They're your people, too. They're all from your towns and cities; fellow citizens. What did you do about them before?"
"Other people took care of that."
"Well, I mean social workers, the police, if need be," one councilman said.
"Okay, so you'll have to form a police department, I guess."
Rusty and the others looked at each in bewilderment, he said later. Become police? They didn't want to become police.
"Here's what I'll do. We'll get you some protective gear, restraining devices, Tasers and stun guns. Form a squad, and those people who won't leave your quarters, you can arrest and remove to the other side of the camp."
It took over a day after finding ten men who agreed to be our cops to get them equipped and ready to evict the squatters.
I don't quite understand how the blacks managed it, but it seems they had enough food cached and water in bottles to last a day, at least, and barricade themselves inside our quarters.
In the meantime, a lot of families had to double up in rooms or sleep in the REC and Mess Halls, but we had no mattresses or blankets or clothes since they were still in our quarters.
Our police divided into two groups of five, and late morning they started at the farthest out of our quarters and began trying to clear each "street", one at a time.
Me, and a whole lot of others who didn't have to tend to immediate chores watched our police enter a room if the latch wasn't jammed and order the people out. Half the time the people would slowly get up and shamble out, but the other half of the time, they refused to move, said awful things, and had to be stunned, cuffed ankles and wrists, and dragged out. And that was hard work considering how heavy so many of the women were and large the men were in size.
And then there were the children who created such a fuss and trouble that they would get tazed, too. And there were over a hundred quarters to rescue this way, room by room.
We worked out a system, though, so that by the end of the afternoon, we had wheelbarrow teams to transport the immobile ones, and men pitched in without any gear and created more teams led at least by one policeman with a shock and stun device.
Rusty set up a line across the camp and told the blacks that any who crossed it to our side would be stunned. I guess you could say we created apartheid all over again on our own.
So the worst was over and our quarters cleared, but while there, they tried to destroy everything of ours. They ripped our clothes, urinated on our beds and blankets, spread feces around. It was unbelievable, and why so many who simply got up and left when ordered to had a gleam in their eye and a smirk on their face.
The Major told Rusty that we were in charge of feeding them, now. He suggested a daily rotation of personnel to do the job, including women. They would have stun equipment, but that the situation would be video monitored and if it got unruly, they'd intervene.
We were able to salvage some clothing and blankets, but those who'd had their quarters taken over had to buy a lot of new goods with our pennies from the catalogues; and in some cases, buy from neighbors out of immediate necessity. Fortunately, it wasn't too cold at night since some had no blankets, while others had to sleep on hard benches where the mattresses had been.
"Let's just go and take some of their mattresses and blankets," I told my dad. "Let's make them pay."
"Two wrongs don't make a right," he said shaking his head.
"Two wrongs! There's only one wrong. They did it. I saw the people who wrecked our room and stuff. I know exactly who did it. Taking their stuff in return wouldn't be wrong. It'd be justice. Fair is fair."
"Tom, do you really want to sleep on one of their mattresses and wrapped in one of their blankets?" my mom put in.
I hadn't considered that and shuddered at the thought. "No, I wouldn't, now that you mention it. Still, we should make them pay somehow."
We created a rotation to feed the blacks, a team to dole out the food and a team to stand by and manage their behavior.
That night we had one of our policemen on duty but Mr. DaSean Jenks organized a party of men to sneak across the line and hit our bathhouses and the Mess Hall. The bathhouses are open all day and night for obvious reasons. The Mess Hall is locked at night, but it's not impregnable.
Around two that morning, a huge racket came from those buildings. The people nearest to them got up to investigate but it was dark, they'd broken the lights to the bathhouses that kit the way at night, and they'd blocked the doors there and at the Mess Hall giving them many minutes to wreak destruction.
All our tools for building, maintenance, farm and animal work are chipped with RFID tags and have to be taken out and returned everyday into secure, heavy-duty sheds. We don't have the keys.
By the time we got the tools we needed after the soldier at the guardhouse opened a shed for us, and got to the buildings and forced in the doors with all our police standing by, twenty to thirty minutes had passed.
We didn't have to stun or restrain any of the blacks. They happily ran out and back to their side, laughing, whooping, and gleeful; and then we heard greater cheers and applause when they returned to their people as conquering heroes.In the bathhouses, all the fixtures were ruined, even though the toilets and sinks were stainless steel. They were torn from floors and walls and used to smash and dent each other. The showers and piping were ripped out, bent and broken - a total ruin.
In the Mess Hall, all the food was flung everywhere - oil, flour, corn meal, eggs, meat, vegetables, spices, coffee, tea, salt, and sugar strewn throughout. Chairs and tables were broken, pots and pans pounded with dents, crockery broken, attempts made to break the refrigerators, ovens, stovetops, work tables, sinks and plumbing.
I have to say that they nearly totaled that place, too.
I couldn't help myself and said, "Still think they shouldn't be made to pay, dad?"
It was mean, I know, but they had just put us out of business. I couldn't figure what it would cost to replace everything. That's what the NAR had us doing now. We paid for electricity, gas, water, sewage treatment, and all the goods we used with our store of money. There was even a system to increase the penny supply as we became more productive and banked our earnings.
Now, we were back to Porta-potties and mush. The hatred I felt towards the blacks was fierce; and me and all the kids, plus a number of adults, became shameless about using every common slur word we could think of or invent in referring to them.
The first thing we did, though, was to commandeer all the lumber and sheets of plywood and build a stout and high fence across the Camp, and remove every scrap of building material. There would be no high ladders they could make, but they say that cunning is the intelligence of the stupid. We had to consider how they might avail themselves of their Porta-potties to climb over, or use the sheets of tarps, their poles, and rope cords, or mattresses and blankets; really anything to get under or over.
The Major said we were in charge of the Camp. Their surveillance monitors were unavailable to us.
Why were they such bastards like that? I mean, we went to their gym and were trained to fight, wrestle, and defend ourselves, and I liked the soldiers who taught us. They treated us well, could be funny, and related to us. So why were they putting us through all this crap? It wasn't funny or informative, or helpful. They made our lives so much harder just when they were getting better. It made no sense to me. What gave them the right to play God like this with other people's lives?
We did what we had to, though. The Council levied a heavy tax on all of us who worked. The farmers who hadn't brought in any kind of crop had to pay out of their futures contract. Little kids like my brother and sister who worked in our restaurant had to pay out of their salaries.
Fortunately, the work of repairing our facilities went faster than expected, and we remained vigilant at keeping the blacks at bay, so to speak. But that cost time and money, too. Winter would come and we'd need better insulation and heat in our living quarters.
After a few weeks, you might say things were close to normal; that is, the normal that was close to being nice just before they brought the blacks in; but having nothing better to do, DaSean Jenks organized his people to be vocally obnoxious. The fence couldn't keep out the songs, chants, clapping sounds they would make in the evening letting us know what evil racists we were and how they'd like to kill us in our sleep and so on.
The fact was that we hadn't done anything to them. We hadn't brought them here. We hadn't arrested and detained them. We hadn't refused to share our skills with them, but we were the ones who should pay for their problems? It was insane.
Every adult in our Camp, though, got to see exactly what they were like up close and personal since we rotated the teams of people in charge of feeding and supervising. People had to be hard about it.
Rusty, the Council, and other adults met to try and figure out what to do about or with the blacks. They invited Mr. DaSean Jenks and others to discuss matters with them, to work out some sort of living arrangement or way of proceeding with getting the blacks living quarters and facilities.
"Tha's fine; tha's fine, but here's wha' ah wan'. You gives us what you got and builds yoreselfs some new ones. Tha's all ahm aksin'. You dun 'rested us, treat us lak slaves, and say we gots to work on yo planation. We's ain' gots to slave on no planation jes 'cuz you say so. Fu** dat!"
"Be reasonable, Mr. Jenks. You understand that we didn't arrest you or put you here. We were arrested, too, and put here against our will; just like you. All we're trying to do is make things as bearable as possible. You need shelter and bathhouses and a cafeteria and such. We can help you. We want to help you, but you have to make some effort on your own."
"Whys we gots to make an effit? You's white same's da ones dat put us here. Fu** dat! We knows are rights. You owe us dat. Gib us are rights. Da's all I gotta say."
Jenks would return to their side with his pals and announce, "Dey's be gibbin' us wha' we wan' soon. Real soon. Dey cain' hol' out 'cuz we's stonger dan dey is. We be a mighty people, black warriors, mah bruddas and sistahs! We be mighty, and dey be weak white nuthin's."
Then, late one night NAR soldiers ran into the Camp, across to the black side and scrambled up the fence in the dark, close to the perimeter of the Camp.
Soon, we saw in the dim light that they were carrying one of the blacks, a girl, I thought, into the medical building. They were working on her there for a while when a vehicle entered the compound, they loaded her in it and took off for Brewster and a real hospital, I guessed.
The girl was called Manzie Dawes, and they just saved her life. What we eventually pieced together was that she about thirteen, had cut a length of rope cord with her teeth from the stays for the tarp poles. She made some sort of a noose, climbed high enough up a fence and got it anchored on a post and hanged herself.
NAR surveillance was alert enough that night to catch it just as she happened to start to hang. They rushed in and saved her. Turns out she was one sad, depressed young girl. She wasn't pretty, but she wasn't ugly, either. She wasn't fat, but mildly chubby. She was smart, sensitive, and often made fun of. Viciously mocked and ridiculed.
Of course, the blacks accused us of lynching her.
Major Milligan explained as much as he knew to Rusty so that we would know how things stood, what was true and what was not.
"We're not bringing her back. She's a nice young girl who's been through a hell of an upbringing. She needs to be with her own people, but we have a place where she'll be looked after by better class of such folks. Who knows if she'll ever overcome things, but with God's grace she may, if she cares to place her faith in Him. I'm not going to absolve myself and people for what happened. I, we, deeply regret it."
A few days later a fleet of buses pulled in and they loaded up the black people and drove off with them.
After breathing a great sigh of relief, some of us wondered what was next? A bunch of Mexicans or Chinese to mess with us? But no one else came. We were left as we were. People settled down into routines, we started making jokes, joshing around and laughing again. We listened to the music, watched the videos, and continued training in the gym in boxing, wrestling, and martial arts.
Someone started calling the period when the blacks were here The Dark Time. It left an indelible impression on us, every one of us. Even my dad. The hatred he experienced directed at him and every one of us was like nothing he'd ever imagined was possible.
The younger people, me and all the other kids figured it out pretty quick. Go ahead and be like that 'cause we'll hurt you ten times as hard as you hurt us. No mercy for monsters who can't live and let live.