Production Team: X
Interview Date: November 15, 1988
Camera Rolls: 2048-2051
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Ronald Scott, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on November 15, 1988, for Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965 to 1985. Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of Eyes on the Prize.
Okay, I want you to go back to 1967, you're 28 years old, I want you to tell me a little bit about the relationship between the police and the Black community, that sense of an occupying force. And if you could me an example, you talked about that search and seizure when you were a teenager.
Well, uh, the Detroit Police Department, uh, you know, later on, came to be known by many names, you know, folks called them the rollers or whatever the case may be. And generally the, the Detroit Police Department was not viewed as a friend of the Black community. There was a unit called The Big Four and, um, it was comprised of four cops who would ride in a car and, uh, as you know, you know, a lot of guys like...
Cut, I need to let you know to try to not--
You had talked about the police as kind of considered an occupation army by the Black community. Can you talk about that and give the search and seizure example?
Well, uh, the, uh, the Detroit Police was primarily comprised of a majority of White officers who, one, did not live in the Black community, who did not seem to generally like, especially, a number of the young Black males who in many cases, as you know, or as it was customary in those days...
Just a second, I know it's easy to say you know--
No, no, as it was customary--
Yea, yea, right.
Okay, you had talked about the police as an occupation force. Can you talk about the relationship?
Well the relationship between the Black community and the Detroit Police Department was one that was, um, at best, uh, tenuous. It was at worst a continuing conflict, a continuing series of, of conflicts whereby, as was customary in those days and is customary today, a lot of, uh, Black guys would stand on the corner, lot of other friends of mine stand on the corner back in those days, in the '50s and '60s, you'd stand on the corner and you'd doowap, you know, so forth. But just maybe just standing around would draw what, uh, uh, came to be known as The Big Four. It was a group of four police officers, usually White, who would ride around and basically terrorize individuals who were standing on the corner. And, uh, tell 'em, ride around the block, for instance, and say, "We want that corner, and you better not be there when we come back." I mean it didn't matter what you were doing. If they told you to leave, you had to leave. So when they would come around the corner, if you weren't gone, usually one person would be singled out, beaten, harassed, maybe taken down, or whatever the case may be. And in those days the police department, uh, was the pardon the pun, they were the law, I mean they didn't have to answer to anybody, um, except their own, uh, peers. The community was, the Black community was not represented in the police department to any great degree. Ah, when you saw a Black cop it was a, a unique occurrence. So generally speaking, the police department uh, as represented by The Big Four and... a number of other uh, individuals cops. The cops back in those days as individuals all had reputations. There was a guy called Rotation Slim for instance, who was known as a guy like a cowboy who would come and kick in your door if you did something wrong. You know, uh, there were, uh, there was a guy that they called, legendary guy called Chew Tobacco 'cause he chewed tobacco and would walk up on somebody, take their gun, and spit chew tobacco, chewing tobacco in their face. These were the legendary so-called tough, street cops who would strike fear in the hearts of, uh, people in the Black community. My father and other people would talk about how these guys were, uh, you know, to be avoided at all cost. And, um, I'll never forget. It was, uh, I was, when I was about eight or nine years old the guy, uh, who was known as chewing tobacco was, uh, shot by a, a barricaded gunman. And, uh, this was in, in a, and the, the guy was, it was in a Black neighborhood. Anyway, he walked up to the door and he was going to kick the door in. As he kicked the door in, the guy, you know, shot buckshot in his face. Now, he even became more legendary after that because though the buckshot splattered in his face he still lived, and walked in and drug the guy out. Or dragged the guy out, rather. So. You know, so these, these guys were, um, were there in my opinion, uh, basically to make sure that the Black community and people in my neighborhood never felt that they wanted to do anything that would draw the police into a confrontation with them. Ah, people generally, many people generally feared the police, except the guys who, uh, normally, uh, a lot of the guys on the street who were involved in, uh, in the life as it were. They didn't really fear the cops that much. I mean, they never really decided to fear.
Talk about, okay, and, talk also about what happened to you.
Well, when I was a, I mean, if you ref--uh, I mean, as I think about the situation when I was about twelve, thirteen years old, there was a crackdown on, um, crime in the city. This was, uh, roughly about 1959, 1960. And the, um, then mayor, uh, Louis Miriani had, uh, stated that they wanted a, um, a crackdown on crime, and this crackdown took place totally in the Black community. Ah, the assumption being that there was no crime anywhere else. And, um, I remember on one occasion I was walking down the street with my uncle and the, um, cops came up, uh, stopped us and, uh, told us, um, you know, that we were walking down the street and they wanted to you know, talk to us. So they got out of the car, came over to us and, um, you know, would, would, they were talking to my uncle, asking him you know, where he was going, what he was doing in that neighborhood. We were half a block from my house. And as he was explaining that, um, I just, uh, generally asked them, I said, "Well you know, why are, why are you asking us all of this?" And, uh, so one of the cops said to me, "Well, just shut up and don't even blow your breath in my face." You know. And then to me as a thirteen year old I, you know, I didn't really, this was like, though I knew about what was happening with the cops before, it was like the first confrontation I had really personally ever had with them. And, uh, you know, 'cause in school in those days the, uh, you were told the police officers were your friend. And that these were the guys who kept you from getting hit by cars and you know, came and rescued your dog and all that kind of stuff. That, I felt that for the first time on a personal level at that time that these guys could actually kill you. And, um, and you know, it was, it was, it wasn't so much frightening, it was a combination of fear and anger. And I mean, and I just, I, I mean guess somewhere deep down inside of me I remember that. Ah, I didn't go around at that time, uh, with a vendetta against the cops. But I would suspect there's friends of mine that I knew had had similar things happen to them. And if you talk to other people in Detroit or from Detroit at that particular time a lot of, specifically, Black men will go back to that era if, if, if they remember that period, and will point to that as being one of the things that they remember very explicitly. And, uh, this was at the same time that the police department of course, right...
Talk a little bit about what it was like being in a home, and your father coming back from the factory tired, frustrated and it not being like "Ozzie and Harriet"?
Well um, my mother remarried and so my stepfather, uh, uh--
Just say, "My step father..."
Okay, my stepfather uh, worked in the foundry, worked at Ford Rouge Foundry. Ford Rouge is the largest industrial complex in, in America, or was at that time. Ah, Henry Ford, uh, built a complex whereby you could build a car from start to finish, raw materials, had a glass plant...
If you could just not worry about that--
...and just start...
Okay, fine. Okay.
Ok, keep going.
So my father worked in the foundry where most Blacks worked and uh, because they weren't allowed to work in the, you know, the upper echelon jobs, upper echelon in, in terms of the industrial world being the glass plant, the frame plant, or shall I say the easier jobs. The foundry was like the coal mine, the foundry is where you turn the, uh, the coke that was used ultimately to build, to make the steel, that was where you shoveled it or did whatever was necessary. Ah, my stepfather was a dark, uh, brown-skinned man, when he came home he would come home looking Black from the, from the coke ovens. Um, and uh, he and his friends I remember used to sit out in their car for hours, um, drinking and, uh, all the guys worked in a factory generally worked in the same place. And, uh, sometimes, uh, when he'd come in he would get, uh, hostile, angry, even violent. And, uh, at the time I was you know, really kind of upset and frightened and so forth by it. And he was generally a pretty good guy, I mean, uh, but at the times when he would drink, uh, after, usually after coming home from the factory, which would be 2, 3 in the afternoon, about the time I'd be getting out of school.
That's a touching story.
You talked about uh, your father coming home from work, from the job, and the sense it wasn't like "Ozzie and Harriet." Can you talk about that?
Well, as I sa--when my father came home, uh, he would sit and drink with his buddies, get drunk, come in the house. And back in the '50s everybody would watch "Ozzie and Harriet" and you see the nice clean neighborhood and so forth, and we had a, it was a fairly nice neighborhood. But when he came home, it was not like "Ozzie and Harriet." He didn't put on his smoking jacket to come to the table. Ah, a lot of times he was drunk, lot of times he was hostile, lot of times he was just downright mad. But, uh, it, it made things tough. And when I think back to those days I think about, you know, some of the songs in that time, they had this song called "Bad, Bad Whiskey Made Me Lose My Happy Home," and my father used to drink some of the bad whiskey. He used to get very, very tough at times and uh, I didn't think about it until later but it was probably the fact that he and his friends worked in, in the coke oven all day long and, and they didn't have any way to deal with the frustration so it came out in the family.
If you could give me that again, but give me the fact that that's where the Black workers were consigned to.
Ok, When the guys in my stepfather's generation went into the plant, which was roughly in the '50s, '40s and the '50s, um, they basically, most of them worked in the coke foundries, in the coke ovens or around the coke ovens. They basically as a result of shoveling the coal and making the coke, worked in the lowest paid, the dirtiest and the hardest jobs. And the only thing they could hope for was to one day end up being a foreman where maybe they didn't have to work so hard, and they didn't have to come home dirty and tired and hurting. And, uh, most of these guys were like, uh, really basically good men but there wasn't any hope for going any further than where they were.
And how did that make you feel in terms of "Ozzie and Harriet"?
Well watching Ozzie and Harriet on television, uh, it just made me feel like that wasn't something that was attainable, not at that time anyway. It made me feel kind of cheated. I didn't think about it in, in that sense at that time but it made me feel kind of angry, kind of cheated. It made me wonder if the stuff as a child that I wanted to achieve, all the things I thought about achieving, whether or not I could achieve them or not because when you were coming up in Detroit, the only thing that you could really look forward to, which, with surety, was the fact that you would be able to work in the factory and that was it. If you were going to stay here, you'd work in the factory. Maybe the post office. That's it. And I didn't feel like, like that was what I wanted to do, and I feel short-changed.
Tell me about your feelings about the Civil Rights Movement in the South. How did you respond to that?
Well, at the time that the Civil Rights Movement in the South was going on, I was growing in consciousness and like a lot of people here in the North we read about what was happening or watched it on TV or whatever the case may be. But I, uh, and my friends, and my friends and I we, we just did not relate to it in terms of an intensely passionate situation. Ah, we, we didn't--of course we felt hurt and concerned about the, the bombing in Birmingham or the dogs, uh, uh, and about the students. We identified with them 'cause we were the same age, but it wasn't personal. It really was not personalized. You know, I had known of guys that I knew, known of guys who had been harassed, as I mentioned earlier, by the police, who had been shot, uh, who were in prison, uh, a lot of guys who just wouldn't make it. And it just didn't relate to the particular kind of things that were happening in our lives. It, it, it, it really didn't...
Did you have a problem with the non-violent part? Let me cut. That answer was great.
How did you respond to the non-violence of the, um, of the Civil Rights Movement?
In terms of the non-violence in, uh, which characterized the Civil Rights Movement in the South, it didn't really relate to us at all, in my opinion. Ah, we were concerned because we were Black, we were in a similar situation, but it didn't relate. At one time in my life I had lived in a situation where, uh, you know, landlord had, uh, wouldn't fix the plumbing, uh, wouldn't uh, deal with the vermin, rats and so forth. And, uh, had to confront the guy, almost get in a fight with the guy to make him do something. So it did--it didn't relate, it didn't relate because on a day to day level, like the police and other kinds of things, there were situations that could lead to a confrontation at any given time, not to mention the conflicts that we had among one another. So it wasn't the kind of situation that lent itself to non-violence in the way that the South, in the southern movement was, uh, a charac--in, in the way that it was characterized. As...
How did you respond to Rap and Stokely?
That was different, that was different. It was different. Stokely, Stokely Carmichael and Rap Brown presented a, a whole different perspective in terms of the way we related to the Civil Rights Movement. Ah, by about 1964 uh, I and many other young people were beginning to grow in consciousness and, uh, you know, we knew about Malcolm X and other kinds of things like that. I'll never forget the first time that Stokely came here because it was, uh, there was a, a young friend of mine who, uh, attended a rally and, uh, Stokely said, uh, to her, he said, uh, all of the women were wearing then as many are now, straightened hair, and uh, so he said to them, he said, "If you really want to be Black, take that stuff out of your hair." The girl ran out of the church, came back about 20 minutes later, and her hair was standing up on her head. And she said, "Stokely, Stokely, I'm Black." And so it, uh, it was, I think that the young people related because one, Stokely and the people in SNCC and, and, uh, I remember people in CORE and so forth were not that much older than them. You know, I attended a thing called the Black Symposium here with Stokely and McKissick and those guys, and what they were talking about related to the frustration that we had. It wasn't a big leap to say for us, to fight for yourself. My parents told me even though my mother is a Christian, a very devout Christian, she told me, "If somebody hits you, then you fight as much as you need to fight to defend yourself." That was the law, that was the... situation that we dealt with every day. And so Stokely and Rap, especially Rap, um, you know, just spoke to the issues that affected us in a urban situation I think more so than anyone else.
Cut. Bless you.
...she was Christian, but she still raised you to fight back? Can you talk--
Oh yeah, yeah my mother was a, was a tough Christian. She, um, she taught me to do what was necessary to survive in the city. In, on several occasions I had fights and she told me two things that I remember. She said, "If you go out and you lose the fight, then you're going to have to fight me when you come back." So I didn't want to fight my mother I mean I knew I'd lose it. The second thing was she said, "If somebody bothers you, you fight as hard, pick up anything, do whatever's necessary to win." And that was because the way that kids would fight in a, in a urban situation I mean it, it could lead to anything. I mean we used to throw bricks at one another, we used to fight with fists, or whatever the case may be. So, um, in relationship to the non-violence of the Civil Rights Movement in the south we just didn't see that if somebody comes up and knocks you up side the head that you shouldn't knock two or three people up side the head to make sure that never happened again, because it just didn't relate to what we were feeling inside. Though we respected Dr. King and we respected the movement, uh, our feelings I think were quite more consistent and congruent with, uh, what some of the main spokespersons for SNCC, uh, had to say. Stokely Carmichael and particularly Rap Brown, 'cause when Rap came up with this little statement, "If American don't come around, then burn America down," I mean everybody could relate to that. We could relate to that primarily because, not necessarily that everybody wanted to go out and throw a firebomb, but the fact of the matter is is that we had always been put in the situation, we meaning those of us who were feeling consciousness as Black people at that time, had been put in a situation where we always had to react as opposed to be proactive in a situation. And when we got the chance to act and to deal with all the frustration we even saw and felt about why those people, about the situation the people getting uh, beaten and so forth in the south, uh, we re--we, we dealt with those and we responded to it. And the thing of it is is that we were asking ourselves, "If those dudes are hitting all of those people, they got thousands of people down there, I mean why don't they just fight back?" And that was what we found, uh, to be quite strange and, and, and my training was is that you do what's necessary.
Cut. That's good. Ok.
Okay, you're in the projects in the middle of the riots, what is happening now with the tank going outside your house and shooting?
Um, in the summer of 1967, in July of 1967 about maybe 2, 3 days, you begin to lose track after a number of years, but it's roughly about the middle of the riot or the rebellion really, and during that situation, um, a neighbor of ours--in public housing projects the way that it's set up on a floor they're about eight apartments and we knew each other real well so a lot of times we'd leave our doors open. In this particular occasion, everybody had closed their doors because they didn't really know what was going on outside. But national guardsmen were across the street from this 14-story unit, um, they were across the street maybe 200 yards. They had a machine gun, uh, set up and...
If you can talk about a sniping incident while you were living ?
Um, I lived on the... uh, fourteenth floor uh, 14-story building and, uh, down the hall there was a friend of mine that I'd known, oh, I guess for five or six years. Ah, he had previously been an alcoholic, his family had also been involved in alcohol abuse. On this particular day in the middle of the rebellion, July 25th, 26th, something like that, he apparently and this is what everybody had heard about, apparently had brought a rifle into the house and we heard several shots and heard it coming from his apartment. And the next thing we knew as we looked out of the window, we were trying to see where the shots were coming from. As we looked out of the window, and my mother, myself, my five year old sister, two year old brother were there, we looked out of the window and the next thing we saw were maybe about 30 rounds of, uh, M-sipt-- M-60 machine gun bullets coming at the apartment or shooting past the apartment. They didn't hit the building, but we saw the rounds being shot, lighting up the area. We fell on the floor, turned out the lights, and, uh, the next thing we heard, the shots stopped, both inside the building and outside, next thing we saw were a group of national guardsmen coming to the door, banging on the door, kicking on the door, opened the door and said, "Who's shooting in here?" And, uh, I wa--walked to the door and I said, "Well no one's shooting in here." And they said, uh, they said, "Somebody shot up here," said, "So uh, we're going to come in and see." And just then before they walked in, somebody, one of the other guardsmen said, "The shooting came from down here." They ran down to the guy's apartment where the shooting had taken place. And, uh, dragged him out. As they were dragging him out a couple of them hit him up side the head a couple of times, dragged him on the elevator. And, uh, my little sister was there and, uh, you know, everybody was there and we were just really in a state of shock because, uh, if they had decided they wanted to come in that apartment, this is where we were thinking that, uh, it could have been me or it could have been anybody else. And, uh, it was just, it was just rough.
Starting with being in the project and hearing the fire you don't know at this point where the sniping is coming from. Okay.
We lived on the fourteenth floor of a 14-story building in the Jeffries Housing Projects. And, uh, on this particular night in the middle of the rebellion, my mother, uh, five-year old sister, my three-year old brother were there. And, uh, we heard shootings, we heard like crack, crack, crack , and uh, we were just sort of looking out of the window, at least I was looking out of the window. And my mother and my brother and sister were in another room. And the next thing we know, there is a blast of machine gun fire coming past the building. We fall on the floor and turn out the lights. Next thing we heard about 2, 3 minutes later are a group of, uh, there was this, there's a knock, pounding, pounding, pounding, pounding on the door and, uh, I opened the door, some national guardsmen standing at the door. And, uh, they said, uh, "We heard some shooting coming out of here, there was some shooting coming out of here." And I said, "Well, there was no shooting in here." And he said, uh, "Well, we're going to come in and see, we thought that there was shooting coming out of here anyway." And, uh, by that time another guardsman down the end of the hall said, "No the shooting was coming out of this apartment here." My sister, my brother were standing there, and my mother, and everybody's just paralyzed, and we were standing there. They go down to the end of the hall. By this time they grab this friend of mine who lived down at the end of the hall and they said, "This is the guy that's doing the shooting." They pull him towards the elevator, and they hit him a couple of times, drag him off. The only thing I could think about was the fact that I was glad that none of us had been killed, I was glad that my sister, my brother, my mother hadn't been hurt in the situation. And to tell you the truth, it's just like other things, I was really, really, really, really, really kind of angry by the situation that, here I was in a situation I couldn't do anything about it. And even now when I talk about it, it, it really bothers me a lot because it's, it's just tough, and I, and I never want to be in that situation again where I can't do anything about it.
Okay, we're cutting.
Um, if you could go back to that and start with the National Guard coming to the door and give me a sense of the powerlessness and nowhere to turn.
The National Guardsman came to our door. They beat on the door. It was loud, we were inside, my mother, my brother and my sister, and myself. And I walked to the door and, you gotta understand they weren't just knocking on the door. They were knocking like they were gonna cave the door in. I walked to the door, it's a National Guardsman, a White guy standing there saying, "We heard somebody shooting in here. And we want to come in." And I said, "Nobody was shooting in here." He said, "Yeah, we heard somebody shooting in here." And, I was standing there, in front of my mother and everybody else. And my first instinct was to do something. These guys had rifles, bayonets, and the whole shot. There was nowhere to get out of the depar--the apartment, unless you jumped 14 stories out of the apartment. I felt, like there was nothing I could do, I guess the reason why we're not talking about it today, I feel, I, I, I, I f--it bothers me so much, it's because if I had had a chance to do anything about that situation. I might have been just like my friend, who was dra--who was dragged later out of, when, when the National Guardsman heard down the hall that. One of the Guardsman said, "The shooting came from this apartment, not from that one." When they walked out, they dragged my friend down the hall out, and hit him upside the head a couple of times. And dragged him on the elevator. And I've wondered where the shooting was coming from, and why he would shoot. But at that very moment, I was frightened, but I was so doggone angry, I was so angry until if I had had an opportunity. When we were standing there just like rats in a hole. And here's this guy, in my house, pushing up, us up in a situation where there's nowhere to go. If I had an opportunity, I probably would have grabbed him right there, and I might not be living today. But the point of it is is that he walked into my house, and there was nobody there to defend anything, or could've defended anything. And when I look back at that today, I think that, one of the worst things, about anybody that ever has to go through a situation like that, is feeling that you're helpless. Is feeling that there's nothing that you can do. And that you might die any moment. That's, so...
Okay. From the time the National Guardsman bangs on that door. Tell me what happened.
On my side of the door, I'm standing there, I'm wondering, exactly what's gonna happen when I open that door. And I open the door, and there are about 4 or 5 National Guardsmen. All young, all White, looking around, with rifles and bayonets. They come in the apartment, my sister is 5 years old, my brother is 3, my mother is standing there. They come in our house, in our living room, they're standing there. And, by this time, in the 3, 4 days of the rebellion, there's been people killed. You know there's been people shot on the street, for no reason whatsoever. By this time, I'm angry, I'm fearful of what's happening. And this one guy, is looking at me as he come's in, he says, "We heard some shooting here." And I said, "There was no shooting here." He says, "Yeah, we heard some shooting here." And this guy is standing looking at me, at any moment that he can blow my head off, my sister's, and my brother's. And I know he didn't come there just to make a courtesy call, he's coming there because he assumes I had a gun. And everybody who had been shot, up to this point, they would of heard about, they all said that they had a gun. And that they were shooting at the police. That became the line, "This guy was a sniper, he was shooting at the police." And I knew that if I was shot, if my family was shot, that they could have closed the door in this apartment, and nobody would have ever known what happened.**. And when I looked in his eyes, and he looked at me, it looked to me as if, uh, it looked as if he wanted to kill somebody. And uh, when I think back at that situation, and I think about the circumstances, and I think about what I felt, I felt helpless, I felt angry, and I felt that my whole family and me could die at any minute, and nobody would be able to do anything about it. And I thought about the fact, that there were a lot of people out there, just like us, who didn't have any other choice. And when I think back about it, to this day, if I could have done anything at that moment, to strike back, to do something about that situation, that I might not be here today, because my little brother and sister, to this day, when I look back and think about the fact that some guy, from outside of Detroit, someone who, who didn't even know us could've of blown us away, it makes me mad. It makes me mad and it makes me realize that, uh, as my mother say, that God was protecting us. And uh, I believe that, if the guy who came in and said that the shooting was happening down the hall hadn't come in, that, uh, we might not have made it. There wasn't anything I could do.
Talk about, you said that even you thought it wouldn't happen in Detroit. What do you think the moral was, of the, of the Rebellion.
Ah, I felt, in many senses that maybe uh, the Rebellion, the Rebellion of the magnitude that it oc--occurred or, in Detroit. Might not happen, maybe couldn't' happen, everybody was working, those of us who weren't in Vietnam were working. Ah, and, uh, it was carefree, I mean this was Motown, right?, everybody was having a good time. And the wor--the only thing you had to worry about was to get to the party on the weekend. And a lot of money flowing, whole shot. And, uh, so people never felt, that there was anything happening inside of us, I mean, being Black people, at this point that might lead to the counter-rebellion that happened. In fact, there was an article out at that time, I think that, where Mayor Cavanagh said, uh, and, uh, Governor Romney at the time said why it can't happen here, talking about the Watts Rebellion. And, uh, I look back at the time, and I think about the fact that, inside a lot of the people who went out and not, not so much the looters, because the guys, and women, and so forth who looted, I think took basically advantage of the situation that happened, that was just a spontaneous situation of anger, I mean, you gotta understand, that you had stores, and apartments, and as I told you before. As I mentioned earlier, anyway, there were a lot of absentee landlords, and situations where people were feeling frustrated. There was no way to do anything about it, so the Rebellion just was an opportunity, to strike back at those places, and those people, that you couldn't strike back at in any other way.
Cut. Alright, we need to get to the--
Okay, couldn't happen here, why?
A lot of people felt it couldn't happen in Detroit, because people had good jobs, they had homes, and generally it was a good time. It was carefree, and people didn't have anything to worry about. But you can't always judge things by how they appear on the surface. Inside of most Black people there was a time bomb. There was a pot that was about to overflow, and there was rage that was about to come out. And the Rebellion, just provided an opportunity for that. I mean why else would people get upset about it, cops raiding a blind pig. They've done that numerous times before. But people just got tired, people just got tired of it. And it just exploded.**.
Cut. Mm hmm.
...people would say, "Well Black folks have plenty of jobs these days, what's the problem?"
Black people had jobs, Black people didn't have plenty of jobs in the plant. In the mid '60s when I went to work at, uh, Dearborn Assembly Plant, uh, we worked on the assembly line. That was a step up from the coke ovens, but most of us worked on the assembly line, and that's what we did. When you came out of there at the end of the day, uh, that's all you dreamed about was cars, and so forth. It, it was a hard job, it was a monotonous job. And you constantly saw White guys on the assembly line, uh, foremen, in White shirts who would leave and who would drive to a better neighborhood, who would drive a better car and so forth. And, there wasn't the opportunity there, there wasn't any opportunity.**. And I didn't want to end up working in the same situation that my stepfather did, and I didn't want to die like he died at 42, of alcoholism and cancer. Not to say that I would have become an alcoholic, but I saw guys die young, frustrated because they couldn't do the things that they had in their minds and their hearts and I didn't want to be like that.
Talk also about the expectations. You're young, it's 1967, what kind of expectations did you have ?
By 1967 I think that one of the things that was positive about uh, the southern movement and some others things was the fact that uh, we were beginning to feel that as a, as a group of young people uh, that we could do just about anything we wanted to, uh, that we could, that we had maybe some options that we didn't think that we had. Um, we, we felt that we wanted to do more than our parents had done. Our parents wanted us to do more than they had done. So most of us were looking to universities and other kinds of jobs, such situations. That's one of the reasons why I went into the media because, uh, I didn't think about it before. I wanted to be an entertainer, I mean that's what we did, I wanted to sing and do all that kind of stuff. But then I found that the media allowed me to do similar things. That was unheard of.
We'll leave it because you're going past the time frame.
What changed on that relationship?
The thing that changed is that Black people--
I'm sorry, because I didn't give you, the relationship between Black and White.
In 1967 or around that time the relationship between Black people and the rest of America changed. And that is Black people were not willing to accept being less than a real human being and accept less than everybody else was getting. That's why people stole a color television set, they wanted the same thing everybody else had. And in 1967 for us, for we as young people, we decided that we would rather die than ever live in a situation where we couldn't have, uh, the same things that everybody else had, and the rights and the opportunities and everything else. And I didn't come to that conclusion until maybe a year or two later, but that's ultimately what we felt, and that we could change the world, and that we could change our relationships. That we could stand up with anybody else in society and that we didn't have to hate ourselves and we didn't have to feel like we were less. That changed. I saw it change within a period in m--the lives of my friends and me within a period in this town of less than 12 months in some cases. Whether it lasted is another thing, but I saw it happen.
...comes to the door and talk about what they did but understand folks are saying, "Hey it's a riot, what are they expecting?"
You know when these guys came to my door is that most people can't understand, or most people who are going to watch this--
Wh--what a lot of people really don't understand is that as I was standing there, I'm standing on the opposite side of the door and these guys are banging my door like they going to knock it in. I had a choice. I mean I could go and open the door or I could stand there and let them kick it down, because in terms of what we had read and what we had seen at that time we knew that if they got past that door that our lives might be in danger, and that they didn't have any reason to come into our house, they didn't have any right to come in there, but that they were going to do, by this time people had been killed just for opening their doors. I went and I opened the door and here are these guys, all these guys were my age, young White guys in my home with my sister who was five, my brother who was three, and my mother there. And I was the only person between them and the rest of my family. And I felt violated, I felt like in any minute that these guys, who had no respect, when they walked in they said, "We heard some shooting here." They didn't walk up and they didn't say, "Look Mr. Scott or, we heard something, could you help us?" They walked in and say, "We heard some shooting here." I mean they took control of our house and in terms of trying to take control of our house, well they were there, they were in the apartment. The only thing that we could do was stand there and take it because there was nowhere to go. And I don't know if anybody else in that situation would have, I don't know what they would have done. Because i--I felt at that particular moment that since it was a situation of life and death, this guy looked at me and he looked as if he wanted to kill me at that moment because I would dare to stand in my house to protect my house against somebody who was coming in. Whatever he felt, whether he felt it was a sniper there or not, I had the right in my house to stay there and to live there and not be worried about whether somebody was going to possibly kill me. And that's what I was worried about. And I was angry and I was frightened, and I felt angry enough so that if I could have gotten my hands on the gun he had, that it might have been the other way around.