When I got a little older I witnessed a lot of prosecution of my parent’s generation. It was all political, not legal. Chairman Mao incited the students – the mass – to prosecute the entire bureaucracy. If you were anywhere in an authority position, you’d be prosecuted. My mom, grandma, was a grade school teacher. Well, if you were in charge of a class, you were in power; you were an authority figure. So she was prosecuted. My father, grandpa, was prosecuted, very badly. People kicked him, punched him, all kinds of physical abuse. And then they would take away your job. It was kind of like the people’s justice. You could come up with your own ideas and be a leader and demand guns. Then you’d be in power, and you could prosecute people. It was a very strange time.
There was a girl who lived in a mill and she knew my mom. So every time we passed that place, she would come out and belittle us. They called us black, like black people. Meaning not in color, but “you are the public enemy.” So it was very demeaning every time we passed.
Was it humiliating for you?
I don’t remember a lot of that, but my sisters kept talking about it so I knew it was very belittling for them. I was probably way too young.
How old were you?
Oh, I don’t know. This must be in 1966, 67, 68. So even if it was 68, I was only 5.
We got a lot of scare because of the political pressure. It’s like what we see in George Orwell’s 1984. A bit lesser in degree, because they didn’t have the technology. But they encouraged a son to tell on his parents. They encouraged wives and husbands to monitor each other. It totally tore the fabric of the society. The most shocking, for me, is how people living under lies can have a totally different sense of reality. When I was young I didn’t think the sun ever shone in America. It’s kind of like Nazi propaganda – same idea. If they lie to you a thousand times, that’s your reality. There’s no reason to believe anything else.