“Robert Knight” by Richelle Dadian

WS 150T final
Richelle Dadian
Professor Johnson
Spring 2013

Richelle Dadian
Robert Knight with grandson

Me: How old are you?
Robert: I’m 73
Me: Where did you grow up?
Robert: In Alabama
Me: And what was that experience like?
Robert: Oh that was back in the time when you know, segregation, blacks lived on one side of town, white lived on the other side, i mean they still had different water fountains to drink out of and everything we did was segregated. you could not uh, you went to different schools and it was just a time where um i guess you could say you knew your place in society and so you just, you stuck with that, for several reasons, i mean, to be on the safe side, not to get yourself in harm’s way by not crossing street lines, things of that sort.
Me: And when did you come to California?
Robert: Probably when I was 15 years old
Me: Oh wow, and what was your family’s reason for moving to California?
Robert: Uh, different way of life I guess, there was family who moved to California and they wrote back about the job opportunities in California and different opportunities and things like that. So my dad, he came first, got himself a job working at the ship yard and after he got a job working them my mother and two sisters came and I stayed in Alabama, with my grandparents so it was several more years before I finally came to California.
Me: Oh wow, and what made you come to California?
Robert: Well I missed my parents and my two sisters, I mean at the time I was 13 years old and so that was kinda me, missing my mom and dad and my two little sisters.
Me: when you came here were the schools and everything still segregated like I’m Alabama?
Robert: No, I mean everybody was uh, mixed placed where you lived, you can all go to the same restaurants, and eat in the same restaurant and uh just do your thing, more or less together. Always mingling with so called people of your class or whatever or your background.
Me: And when you came here did you go to high school or college or did you work?
Robert: No, I mean I went to Mcclymonds high school in Oakland. From there we moved to Fresno County. My dad was always not a city person, he was always country, back in Alabama where he was born, he was a farmer, more or less what you call a sharecropper. And we moved from there to the city in, still in Alabama, it had more industrial and things. And you were diversified in things you could do, so he just adapted…
Me: And did you go to college in California?
Robert: Yeah I went to college for a year and a half, I went to college of the sequoia in Visalia
Me: And did you work after that?
Robert: Yeah, a lot of things happened. When I was in my second year there my father had a heart attack and there was my mom and by the time it was three more siblings three sisters and a brother and my mom didn’t have no employment or nothing like that so I had to uh, we were just fine, support them while my dad recovered.
Me: So you went to work?
Robert: Yes
Me: And what did you do for work?
Robert: Whatever was available for me to do, I did. Equipment operator, farm work, I just did whatever was available to earn an honest dollar.
Me: That’s very commendable. And, is that the career that you stuck in, with farming?
Robert: No, I uh, later on I started to work for a chemical company, and then my next thing was to be a truck driver and I drove trucks for probably 35 years at the least, and that’s what I retired from then.
Me: And what about your family that you built, your wife, when did you meet her?
Robert: Oh I’m bad with dates but it was probably back in 1960 when I met her. We’ve been married for 52 years. We have three children, two sons, and of course you know Melissa.
Me: And what was raising a family like?
Robert: Oh I mean it’s a challenge, I mean, you get a family you got the responsibility they’re fed, safe, loved, provided for. Try to guide them the best way you know how to what you learned over your lifespan and just watch them grow and be proud of some of the things they do and disappointment in others and any mistake they make just try to correct it, and uh just go from there.
Me: Sounds like you got it down.
Robert: Yeah I guess you could say that, I came through a long period of different time and uh I guess you can say I was gifted with things …and uh I just learned to adapt in any situation I came across. When you have a certain type of personality you can deal with people in any time in life I mean if you can understand people and they can get to understand you, you could find out there’s not a ton of difference in how you think and how you react to different situations.
Me: That’s good advice!
Robert: I mean if you’re talking about a black man who was born in the South in a segregation situation, for each and every one it could be a different life situation. I’m probably I guess you could say one of the lucky ones that never knew what you called or an outward way you can see, a hate type situation, an abusive type situation because of a situation and a timing and a location, nothing like that. I’ve seen some things that you and others would not like to see and not make it happen but some of those things. I would say in those times we were treated as human beings.
Me: Wow well that’s good, that’s not always what you hear.
Robert: Education is important in a lot of ways especially a job you know your livelihood but education plays a role in how we view people and how we see people and how we understand what they contributed to the way things are today.
Me: I agree I think education is very important. Well, thank you very much for your time.
Robert: Well I hope I was helpful to you.
Me: You were very helpful, thank you so much.

Robert Knight is an exemplary man. He has contributed in many ways to the argument that Black males are not limited to the stereotypes that are projected onto them. One way in which Robert refuted stereotypes was working hard to earn an honest living. Especially when Robert was charged with taking care of his family when his father was not able to work, Robert worked odd jobs that would earn him an honest living rather than turning to crime which could have been a faster way of acquiring money.

Another way in which Robert refutes stereotypes is by being a caring, loving, and present father for his children. Robert understood that with a family comes the responsibility of providing for them with material things, of course, but also making sure they are safe and loved and cared for. Robert tried to teach his children things that he had learned in his own life and tried to guide his children to make good decisions. What is more important, he was there with love and understanding when his children made mistakes and did what he could to help them grow and learn from their mistakes and to help correct them. Robert knew at an early age that education is an important part of having a self-sufficient and productive life.

Due to the fact that Robert was not able to finish his college education he instilled in his children the importance of a good education. He believes that an education is the key in one’s livelihood but it is also much more than that. Robert believes that education plays an important role on how we view other people and how we understand what other people have contributed to society being the way it is today.

Robert has faced many hardships in his life, but even still, he never conformed to stereotypes. He worked hard making an honest living, provided physically and emotionally for his family, and passed his wisdom and values onto his children to give them a better life than he had. He is truly a progressive Black male.


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