My first victim was a woman-white, well dressed, probably in her early twenties. I came upon her late one evening on a deserted street in Hyde Park. a relatively afflent neighborhood in an otherwise mean, impoverished section of Chicago.
That was more than a decade ago. I was 23 years old, a graduate student newly arrived at the University of Chicago. In that first year, my first away from hometown, I was to become thoroughly familiar with the language of fear.
I moved to New York nearly two years ago and I have remained an avid night walker. Black men have a firm place in New York mugging literature. I often witness that "hunch posture," from women after dark on the warrenlike streets of Brooklyn where I live.
It is not altogether clear to me how I reached the ripe old age of 22 without being conscious of the lethality nittime pedestrians attributed to me. Many things go into the making of a young thug. Unfortunately, poor and powerless young men seem to take all this nonsense literally.
The fearsomeness mistakenly attributed to me in public places often has a perilous flavor. Another time I was on assignment for a local paper and killing time before an interview. In "My Negro Problem-And Ours," Podhoretz writes that the hatred he feels for blacks makes itself known to him through a variety of avenues-one being taken for a criminal.
I began to take precautions to make myself less threatening. And on late-evening constitutionals along streets less traveled by, I employ what has proved to be an excellent tension-reducing measure: I whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi and the more popular classical composers.