There was a time when I declared that I wouldn’t talk to white folks about black folks’ problems. It arises out of my experience as a child in Bakersﬁeld, California. I have been slapped by white teachers, sent to the cloak room for behavior I can’t even remember, and humiliated by a music teacher who had the whole school choir sing a song called, “Old Black Joe.” My most hurtful memory, however, is of my father being denied an opportunity to open his own Business.
I have told the story many times before but it seems appropriate to re-visit it as the world watches the mistreatment of Mexican and Central Americans by the Trump administration. The simple version of this life changing story was that my Father was a detail man polishing and detailing cars for automobile dealers in Bakersﬁ eld. He had done this type of work in the town of my birth, Altus, Oklahoma.
He watched and helped as my Mother started and created her successful business as a used clothing and furniture store owner/operator. Mama had worked as a maid for white folks as most black women of her age had done. As white people would give her hand-me-down clothes and used furniture that was left over from their family, Mama struck upon the idea of selling the things they gave her to other people. The Hopkins family lived very well on the earnings from her store.
In 1956, we purchased a new home in Bakersﬁeld which was the envy of most black folks in town. It had belonged to a white doctor who I guess had grown tired of black folks moving into the neighborhood. It was a block where the only black doctor lived as well as the town’s only black dentist, a barber, and real estate broker.
Daddy had a great reputation as an auto detail person so he decided he would open an independent auto detail shop. He rented a lady’s garage and started a business of his own. As the business began to grow, the white man who my dad worked for went to the landlord and convinced her to increase Daddy’s rent to a level that he couldn’t pay. His remedy was to go back to work for a paycheck at the auto dealer.
That incident hurt the Hopkins family no end and is still a heavy burden for me to carry. That is one of the reasons I won’t work for anyone for a paycheck. I don’t need anyone having that kind of power over me. I went on to open my own Barber shop at the age of twenty, having ﬁnished barber school at the age of eighteen. What people may not know is that the barbershop was the result of my mother making a deal to rent the shop for me.
The lesson in that is that we all need help in moving forward in this world. I left the shop and moved to Los Angeles to start my journey to get through law school and start practicing law. We need our tribes to step up and do their part to help push the tribe forward. I left the shop to my brother who went to barber school after high school and used the barbering trade to move forward and become the
ﬁ rst black professor at De-Anza College in Northern College. The Hopkins tribe helped one another to get along and move forward.
To me, Donald Trump is the symbol of the man who squashed my father’s dreams of owning his
own detail shop. Daddy’s nickname is the license plate to one of my cars
(Hoppies). We keep our tribe alive by helping one another move forward. We must all do whatever we can to move the Mexican/Central America tribes forward.