Terrence Roberts, Ph.D.

As Interviewed by Audrey Jameson, March 17, 2015

Dr. Terrence Roberts: In His Own Words

The first day was frightening and scary for the most part. Several students left class when I walked in, saying they refused to go to school with niggers. I was on-guard all day because many students pushed and shoved me around and called me names.

Any white kid who tried to be our friend was immediately saddled with the label “nigger lover” and became a target for violence. Since the reward for being friendly toward us was to get beaten up, there were only a few students who chose to do so.

The classrooms were scary places since the same kind of behavior mentioned above was present there as well. In the main, the teachers were not happy to see the nine of us. My English teacher asked me why I wanted to go to their school since I had a school of my own. A few teachers were supportive and tried to make life easier for us by telling the white students not to bother us, but most were “neutral.”

Nothing really changed over the course of the year -- it was a course of survival trying to stay alive in the face of assault on us every day. If I were to do it again then I would’ve demanded that all of the school mobs be arrested and put in prison for the duration if they didn’t stop what they were doing.

Part of the answer of why I never gave up lies in the fact that I knew what we were doing was the right thing to do. You will be surprised to find how much you can accomplish when you know without doubt that your mission is righteous. Also, I knew as well that hundreds of people had died in the fight for justice before I even arrived on the scene. I could not disrespect their efforts by saying no to my opportunity to be involved in the same struggle.

Regarding the recent events at Oklahoma State University, I would say that it’s just a microcosm of who we have become as a people. Like I said before, we have never really confronted the central issue so that these ideologies of racism are continuing to be taught to ensuing generations

Future generations need to delve into understanding the history of our country and do it in a concentrated way so you can develop an understanding about how the society is arranged in 2015 is virtually a product of all these historical elements that preceded our current existence -- you need to know in some detail exactly what happened so you can understand what’s going on.

We have not progressed very much given the situation we’re facing in the year 2015. I think it’s probably never going to change unless we determine that we are going to make a concerted effort to make the change.