Who Wants To Kill Me Today? by Edith Stone
I’m afraid to write inside of the United States. In the first book of my Education Without Walls series, I give many examples of how that fear was manipulated into my unaware psyche. It was pressed into me onward throughout my life as it has been pressed into the psyche of all other Black or Brown inhabitants of the derogatory system in the United States.
My mother would drop her voice as she whispered to me inside the house that I wouldn’t want to make the white people mad because they will use school records to track me throughout my life. She said they would make sure I couldn’t work. She told my brother not to walk where no one could see him so that there would be witnesses if the police tried to accuse him of a crime or beat him up. Did her whispers mean the whites were watching us through our windows, down our streets? Is it paranoia when I still check for the whites standing in the window or is it a rational fear?
How did she know this? Is it because she came from a family of abolitionists who were privy to the strategies used to disenfranchise a vulnerable slave population? Or rather was it her intense bird’s eye observation of chastisements issued to Black students at her school? Was it, Emmet Till, the little boy who was savagely tortured to death by a group of white men but let go by a white court? Which whites would look into our windows and decide to kill us? Was it whites in the family or those who had confided in my mother what they had heard the establishment whites say that they were planning to do?
Albeit, my mother passed away last year, but her haunting accuracy was too painful for me to believe as a child; too cruel and unnatural. Yet all that she warned me against sure enough became the nightmare in my life that came true. This attendant nightmare keeps me asking myself when and how will I be harmed by the police or other whites. Will they chase me in my vehicle again or will they handcuff me behind my back while I slip and slide across the ice again. Will they scream, “Shut the fuck up!” again, as I try to explain a situation to them. Will they refuse to remove a white woman from my property when I call them to help me….not her. Or will they signal me to be quiet while she continues to trespass? When will they stop tramping all through my house looking for violations on which to arrest me? I call it rational fear, not paranoia.
A Mexican student of mine put it so clearly when he looked up into my eyes one day and said, “I’m tired of these white teachers hunting me like I’m an animal.” At required conferences, I would observe them accusing him of not doing his work. Days before I would have observed them standing over him interrupting his progress in finishing his work. They would be screaming at him, pointing their fingers on the pages of his workbook, all with no explanation when or why he should expect these interruptions. He would be removed from his seat in my science class with no explanation. He would have his recess time reduced or removed as a discipline strategy when the work was then incomplete. He was sent out of class when he protested this teacher treatment. He was hounded in front of the other students so that they avoided him. Of course, I was accused of felony misbehaviour by the principal when I tried to help him by explaining to the committee what strategies were in error against him. I was the only teacher that had no complaint about this student. He was bright, inquisitive, engaged when he was left in peace. He was being railroaded out of his social position as a leader with his peers by the heckling, false accusations and interference of white teachers in my science class. It was all permitted to continue by the principal who supported the strategies of the white teachers to intimidate the student as well as myself as the science teacher. I guess I was supposed to be grateful for their perceived privilege of me always being the only Black science teacher in these all-white schools.
The Education Without Walls series was written at the behest of a young Black professor of Sociology. He and I, as colleagues both, noticed how we and most of our other Black colleagues were never accepted for tenure. When eligible we would be eliminated from our positions. It was curious but because we Blacks were the majority of educators being eliminated, we decided to take ownership of our own professional skills. After being fired from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Youth Authority without due process, I decided to research my family background. Certainly, I was hoping to discover the evidence to support my suspicion that there must have been contempt for our white slave master and his family. I had to ascertain if there were particular reasons that I should really be franticly tracked by the white establishment for exclusion as a teacher with tenure because of dislike We all held Highly Qualified certification in excess of what the whites held, which did not help us.
Well, what do you know! The intense focus on keeping me unemployed really was a direct response to my Stone Plantation owners and their relatives from England. The colonial Stones were driven out of town by vigilante colonists when the Stones were sent to help organize the colonies by the British government. The colonists resented their ideas in the 1700s. Likewise, Senator Stone drew the ire of the rest of the Senate for his progressive ideas, law degree and business savvy over one hundred years later.
By the time the Revolutionary War broke out young John Stone had been farming. He threw down his pitchfork to fight on the side of the colonists. His son, William Joel Stone inherited John’s land grant patents. Swept up by the economics of slavery William turned the sprawling land into a slave plantation which kept him financially viable whether he believed in the institution or not. Each slave had to be accounted for although the record books seem scant when I see he only paid taxes on a handful of slaves. Still, he sent them out each day to work for other landowners holding each accountable for bringing back a certain sum of money to him. This harassment of Blacks is an entitlement of whites that has never been stopped.
Today in the United States what amount of money that goes out of the white corporate system into the hands of Black slave descendants is still monitored through the last names that the freed slaves continue to carry until today. When Malcolm X called for American Blacks to drop these slave names to prevent this monitoring, he was abruptly assassinated. The talents and dispositions of each slave descendant remain known through tracking. A careful plan has been made for which Blacks will be targeted for prison, which ones will be allowed through school, where each will be allowed to work and live or the specific amount of property allowed to be purchased. This new tracking system has never been challenged so that certain types of Blacks are placed in jobs where they will certainly not be effective in the American workplace. Others who get an education are labelled as the uppity and form that small percent allowed access to professional positions commensurate with their education. The punishment for advancement in education is the low paying job with a professional title. The largest disparity in pay is between Black men and their white counterparts leaving Black men in a huge disparate gap. He’s at a huge disadvantage when mustering the confidence to create a family or support an existing one. Enough Black families were not being starved out after the migration north of the plantations. Wives were able to pick up the survival needs of the Black family which called attention to the astounding growth of the Black community. As my mother pointed out, Black communities such as in Oklahoma and Roseville, Florida were massacred for becoming independent.
Survival of the Black family had evaded total destruction so well that white urban police officers took over the task of the white lynch mobs in killing Black family providers. Black Americans all know there is a target on our backs to be killed by police that is looking for a reason to make that fatal arrest. William Joel Stone had few records of slave inhabitants for the purpose of tax evasion. This new system of accounting for each Black person only became essential after Blacks entered the free market. He also had many children by many women besides his lawful wife, Mildred Phelps which were not accounted for. There is no record of what woman bore William’s slave son, Jacob. Assuming she was a Black slave Jacob was not sent to school as William Joel, Jr. was allowed and all other of the slave master’s white children.
As a United States Senator, William Joel Stone’s other son, white William Joel Stone, Jr. was vilified by other senators and the newspapers for his intelligence and ability to persuade and negotiate. Four generations later, my son inherited the steel-grey eyes and became a professional negotiator. In his biography, I saw many similarities between he and I. Quickly I understood that institutional racism meant that white landowners already knew who the Black slaves of plantation owners, their inherited strengths and weaknesses, especially if they were related by blood.
When freed slaves abandoned the plantations it was in the financial best interest of the newly forming white corporate America to track where they were going and what they were doing. Patterns of migration beginning after the Civil War gave ex-slaves the freedom to move about America but did not grant privacy, security or economic protections. It did not grant accountability of white record-keeping and certainly not police treatment to the Black freed slave regarding being murdered. From vigilante lynchings to burning down homes and businesses to the massacres of genocide there has been no restraint about murdering Blacks in the United States or certainly no accountability.
I think about it when I am at home. Am I disliked for my intelligence, focus, morality, public service, education as my white great-great-uncle had been? Those attributes in a white man were acceptable traits for jealousy in other white men but forbidden to be expressed in his Black descendants. That jealousy makes me wonder when I gaze at my windows, who wants to kill me today?
Although I have the intelligence and wit of my white uncle, William Joel Stone, Jr., I share the thwarted desire of my great grandfather. Enslaved Jacob Stone hungered for education, equal opportunity in trade, land ownership. It doesn’t matter that I did acquire top-grade educational credentials. White establishment school principals have still said no to me or in court. “I don’t want you.” These two principals were upheld in that statement which kept me from working beside them. They flexed their white establishment, racist walls along with their friends effectively preventing my financial survival.
Each year that California principals got rid of me and other Black educators, as well, we would have to find other school districts at which to apply. We had to start from the bottom of the pay scale all over again. Each time I would never know if a student, the principal or another teacher would call the police on me as I repeatedly saw them call on my Black male students. They were handcuffed in front of the student body without parental contact. A kid accused and removed where no one could see what happened. I could visualize a similar scenario for myself at yet another new school.
The seated principal opened his legs wide enough to encompass one of my female students during class. I could feel his growing hostility when I addressed him about it. He threatened to turn all the female students against me. They would say anything he wanted against me. When the male superintendent defended him, I knew if they called the police on me that day, that haunting life-long question could possibly be answered. Who wants to kill me today?