With a newfound comfort in defending myself I entered the NYC catholic school system. From grades 1-6 in a school full of Irish and Italian American kids from a neighboring apartment development, I learned quickly about hate from some of my classmates. I was a nigger, or white nigger. My brother was a nigger roach at the worst or just plain nigger most days. I had it bad, but my brother had it worse being a couple shades darker than me. My brother was very handsome. I think they hated that about him. Also, the girls loved him, with his brown skin and light brown eyes.
We fought on the way to school, we fought in the school yard, we fought in the playground and we fought on the way home from school. This went on for years throughout the 1970’s. We were surrounded by assholes, the worst kind of racist assholes at times. In those days, my arch enemy was John. I had the misfortune of going from 1st-6th grade with this gem. To me he was John, to him I was nigger and Robert Johnson, not rob or Bob or Johnson, nigger, or Robert Johnson. We must have had a half dozen fist fights over the years, lots of black eyes, busted lips and bloody noses. My brother's arch enemy was Chris. As previously stated, my brother had it harder than me in this era. I didn't know the depth of his anguish, but it was bad. I believe it had serious negative implications on his life through adulthood. It definitely impacted his education because he learned to hate school. Chris and his gang of bigots used to intercept us on our way to school in the morning and on our way home. All the way calling him nigger and me white nigger, and questioning how we could be brothers, harassing us daily.
It all came to a head when my brother finally had enough. During school one day my brother had a fight with Chris, and it was broken up prematurely. For the rest of the day Chris was putting it out there that my brother was getting jumped after school and in big trouble. I got word of the threat and was scared for myself and my brother for the pending walk home. I met my brother at our usual spot, and he was a bit on edge but ready for the walk home. We walked our usual route down 31st Ave and made it halfway home, with him frustrated with all my questions, “What happened?", "Are we gonna get jumped?"
As we approached the railroad tracks adjacent to Chris and the gang's apartment complex. We suddenly found ourselves surrounded by the aforementioned punks. Chris confronted my brother and demanded that he get on his knees, apologize, and beg for his life. The ground happened to be covered with some old dirty NY snow that was hanging around from an earlier storm. Between the mud, dog crap, and dead rats it was gross. My brother bravely refused, one thing about my brother was that he was built for this shit. He was in great shape, and he was nice with his hands. In addition, he was drop dead handsome, a kind of brown bomber ready for action.
Chris yelled, "Get on your knees nigger roach or I'll make you." My brother strongly refused and in the next instant he was involved in violent brawl, punching, kicking, scratching, and grappling all on the ground in the snow and mud under the L train. It was the kind of day that the sun was shining above and beautiful out, however the stench and sight of the setting we were in made the day very ugly. As my brother began to get the better of his foe, punching him in his face till his eyes were swollen and his nose busted and bloody, our father happened to be driving by. The fight was then in the middle of the street(31st Avenue). He saw me and then my brother and pulled over at once. When the punks saw my father approaching, they made way, and my father pulled the brawlers apart. He did Chris a favor. Big brother was winning big. As we walked to our dad's car, Chris yelled out pretty loud to my brother, "you're still a nigger roach!" My Dad turned to my brother and said very plainly, "It sounds like that mother fucka wants some more. Go give it to him!" He shoved my brother back to the fight. And give it to him he did. That was the last time that asshole ever bothered or bullied my brother. Strangely, my bigoted fight opponent, seemed to back off from bullying me, knowing my brothers new reputation I suppose.