I was working down in the hold of the ship. There was about six Filipino men and over these men was a 19 year old officer of the ship. And this big white guy [officer] went over and started to kick this poor Filipino. And none of the white men that was working down there in the hold with me had said one word about this guy. And I had sat there and I was getting madder and madder and madder by the minute. I sprang to my feet, and I turned on my torch… I had a flame about six or seven feet out in front of me and I walked up to him and I said—do you want me to say the real language?—I said to him “you so-and-so if you go and lift one more foot I’ll cut your guts out.” That was my exact words. I was so mad with him.
And then he starts to tell me that he had been trained in boot camp that any national group that was dark skinned was beneath all white people. And then he started to cry. I began to feel sorry for him because he was crying. He was really crying, he was so frightened. And I was frightened, I didn’t know what I was doing, you know. But in the end I turned my torch off and I sat down on the steps with him. About that time the intercom on board the ship started to announce “Lynn Childs, report to Col. Hickman immediately!”
So I said I guess this is it. So I went into Col. Hickman’s office and behind me came all these men — they were all lined up behind and I said “Where are you guys going?” They said “We’re going with you.”
[Hickman] says “I just wanted to see Lynn Childs!” And they said “Well you’ll see all of us because we’re all down there we all didn’t have guts enough to do what she did and we’re with her.” So he said “Come into this office!” and he came out and he had the — one of the guards take me inside the office and he closed the door real fast to keep them out and he says “What kind of Communist activity are you carrying on down in the hole?!”
And I said “Communist? What is that?” He says “You know what I’m talking about! You’re a Communist.” I sid “Well, if Communists object to the kind of treatment that man was putting on those Filipinos and would come to their rescue,” I said, “then I am the biggest Communist you ever saw in your life.” I said “That is great. I’m a Commie!”
He said “Don’t say that so loud!”
I said “Well, you asked me was I a Communist and you’re saying I am and I’m [going to] agree…”
He said “Ssshh! Hush. Don’t say that so loud!” He says “I think you oughta get out of here and go back to work.”
And I said “Well, you called me. Why did you call me?”
He said “Never mind what I called you for, go back to work!”
… I had always been one of these individuals who felt that I could handle my own problems my own way and do things myself. I didn’t ever ask anybody to do anything to help me out in anyway… [but] the results of going with all those people behind me taught me one thing: that when a bunch of people come with you, that can make a colonel say “Hush, get out of here. Go back to work!”
—Lynn Childs, transcribed from The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter [x]
I don’t have anything intelligent to add. But This moved me so much. And I don’t know why this particular story more than some of the others I’ve reblogged. But god damn.