In Response to: Never Going Back

Greg Conderacci’s powerful article took me back to the day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. I was studying in the philosophy building, as I often did in the evening. The custodian knew me from all the evenings we ran into each other there. (Once, when I was studying Orgo, I wrote a fake chemical formula on the board, along with the real ones I was learning. The fake one had the letters L, O, V, and E all joined by strong double bonds. When the custodian erased the blackboard, I was touched that he left only the fake formula there.)

Anyway, it was this African American custodian who told me the dreadful news. I regret to this day that my shyness prevented me from talking with him about it.

Four years ago, after Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo., the African American driver of the shuttle bus for my office building initiated a conversation with me about what those events in Ferguson meant to him. He told me about times he was stopped by the police for “walking while black.” By then, I’d gotten over my shyness enough to have a 20-minute talk with him.

Richard Waugaman ’70
Signal Mountain, Tenn.