lest we forget

A quarter century ago a black social worker, Roger Wilkins had this experience in Cleveland. “If you went into that house it was like going into a coffin. The people were white and they were pale, and they had blue numbers on their arms. The house smelled like death because the people were scared to go out, and they wouldn’t let anybody come in. They only let me come in because I was the man with the money. The woman had been in Auschwitz, the man had been in some other, less well known camp, and somehow they had survived; somehow they had married; somehow they’d come to Cleveland; somehow I was the government; and I was a kid. Of course, I’d known about the war. I’d had friends at school in Harlem who had been refugees from Germany. But I had never seen that evil in its face that way before. After awhile, I gained their confidence. One day I heard, I swear to you this is true, a scratching inside a closet, and I asked, ’what is that in that closet?’ And then I opened the door and there was a kid in the closet. The worst looking, most malnourished kid I ever saw. It was their child, and they were afraid to bring that child out of the closet because they thought Hitler would come from the grave and burn that child. I said, you can’t do this. You can’t inflict the pain of history on this child. I will help you find a school for this child. I did. . . .”
Speaking Out, Civil Rights Quarterly, Spring, 1980


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s