Constable: Another tense summer, but it's not Summer of Rage

It's easy to make a case that 2016 will be another “Summer of Rage.” We've got videos of black men being killed by police. We've got videos of the murder of five white police officers in Dallas by a black gunman. We've got massive protests in the street as a result of all those tragedies, and counter-demonstrations, too.

But for suburban folks who lived through the turbulent 1960s and the 1967 “Summer of Rage,” this summer's rage is not the same.

“We have made incredible advances in my lifetime, and it's wonderful,” says Margery Frisbie, 93, a white author and longtime social activist from Arlington Heights.

“Oh, absolutely,” agrees Richard Frisbie, 89, her husband of 66 years, another white activist, a former Daily News reporter and a longtime Arlington Heights Memorial Library trustee.

“Oh, definitely,” concurs Nova Thompson, 83, part of the first black family to buy a house in what had been all-white Arlington Heights.

Thompson and her husband, Emmanuel, a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago who died in 2009, bought their Arlington Heights home, and moved in with their fifth-grade son and second-grade daughter in 1965.

“The day they arrived, I went over to their house on my bicycle and invited them to dinner,” Richard Frisbie says. The families remain friends 50 years later, and the Thompsons' adult son recently brought his family to watch the July Fourth parade from the Frisbies' front yard.

That small slice of normal, American, suburban life takes on special significance for the Frisbies.

A protester holds up his fist as he stands behind Dallas police officers at their headquarters Monday in Dallas. The slaying of five police officers has ignited an outpouring of emotions and thoughts about race relations. Associated Press

“You say to yourself, there was a day when (members of that black family) couldn't go to a restaurant in town,” says Margery Frisbie, who also remembers white-on-white prejudices that seem like ancient history now. “Little Catholic Girl Scouts couldn't go to meetings in a Protestant church.”

The nuns who taught her at Catholic school always told her to sit next to a black person on public transportation to make the person feel accepted.

“So I did,” she says. “That's the kind of thing that changes things slowly.”

Thompson says she remembers few problems becoming a welcome part of the suburban community, except for some ugliness for her children.

“My children were called names the first few months we were here,” says Thompson, explaining how she didn't let her children endure the N-word. “I got on the phone and talked to those parents. They were very nice, and some of them even brought their children over to apologize.”

The Frisbies and Thompsons lived through the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy within 63 days of each other in 1968. But even the turbulent 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago saw fewer fatalities than a typical night in Chicago today.

“It's just crazy there are so many guns floating around,” Richard Frisbie says of today's society.

“That black man who shot police in Dallas shouldn't have had those guns,” Thompson says. “There are too many guns.”

This 1968 photograph shows a demonstrator being led away by Chicago police during a confrontation outside the Democratic National Convention. That year also saw the assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Associated Press file photo

There might have been more racists a half-century ago, but today's fewer racists have an easier and more deadly way to express hate.

“We just want people to stop shooting each other,” Richard Frisbie says.

Still, Thompson notes that even with the well-publicized racial killings, her grandchildren are growing up in a much better world.

“There are people who probably hate me because I'm black, but there are people who like me because I'm me,” she says.

Margery Frisbie even sees some progress in the national reporting of black men being shot by police officers.

“(Fifty years ago), what happened to black people wasn't news, And now, it is,” she says. “But, we still have a long way to go.”

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