I’m Samoan. You may not believe it, but a whole bevy of racists in the 1970s believed it and it has become an inside joke in local media  — or at least the retired members of local media.

Maybe you’ve heard it before and then again, maybe not. Back in the early ’70s, Boston was grappling with court ordered school desegregation and forced busing. It was an ugly time for race relations in The Hub of the Universe.

“The cradle of liberty” was under an international media microscope. Not pretty.

I was out covering the story and to my credit, everyone hated me. Black, white, politicians — everyone thought I was on the other side. I was proud of that. It meant (to me) I was on the right side.

One day, there was an incident in South Boston — also known as “Southie,” where all the action was taking place. A bunch of white thugs had cornered me and my crew. They were screaming the usual epithets, throwing rocks and bottles. They were on the move, coming in to give the hated, lying media a serious tune-up.

At that moment, I had what I call “A Mel Brooks Moment.” An veritable epiphany. The angry mob quieted as I raised my hand for silence. I spoke calmly, in my best (and most popular) soothing voice.

“Hey, I’m not a nig**r. I’m Samoan!”  

My crew looked at me dubiously. Surely, no one could be that stupid. Besides, I had that infamous ironic smile on my face. The angry mob was still quiet and obviously confused. So I repeated it again, slowly and louder, so the crowd could read my lips.

“Hey, I’m not a nig**r. I’m Samoan!”  

A brief pause and then … the crowd cheered. “He’s not a nig__r. He’s Samoan!!”  

They approached with broad smiles, offering handshakes. We got the hell out of there and pretty much ran for the truck. Yes, they were that stupid.  To this day, many colleagues call me “The Samoan.”

Now, that was real news!!

Categories: Anecdote, Boston, Garry Armstrong, Media, Photography, Racism and Bigotry

Tags: , , , , , ,

54 replies

  1. I always liked this story. I hate to say it but geography is not a strong point for many Americans. Back in the eighties my penfriend reported to me that students in the high school where she was a teachers aide or something were unclear as to whether Australians spoke English as their native language.


  2. I know some Samoans who lived through the ‘Dawn Raid’ period in New Zealand history, who’d have been very surprised to have been offered a handshake instead of police brutality and deportation.


  3. well done, Garry. You Samoans are very bright. (aargh) And the real skill is in confusing people–how easily they can be disoriented if they lose their black/white thinking. As I often remind clients–all the colors of the rainbow come between the black and the white.

    Great story, and quick wit.


  4. Garry, Wow! Quick thinking (something I lack). A Samoan 🙂 – Hatred is an ugly thing. I’m happy you and your crew were safe that day.

    I am reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers (I don’t know how to italicize or underline the book title in this box). One of the ongoing themes in the book is that people will usually “default to truth”, meaning they will believe what you tell them. Thankfully, it seems like that worked in your favor that day. A little stupidity goes a long way. It seems to be our nature.

    The even bigger subject of the book is that we don’t know how to talk to strangers and how that affects our lives and our world; about how that leads to conflict and misunderstanding (paraphrasing the audio book’s description). Extremely relevant in our current social climate.

    “[R]emain awake through a great revolution.” (from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last sermon before he was assassinated). Hopefully, this is the great revolution that will bring about change.

    I appreciate your sense of humor.


  5. Great story, Garry! I do hope you’re compiling all of your experiences into a book…


  6. Oh Garry, I can’t imagine what you have gone through. I am glad you got out safely, physically that is. You must have gone through so much in your lifetime and probably have plenty of stories and scars. I just can’t fathom people hating other people because of their skin color. I was born in late 1960 so missed much of the racism riots and protests. I only know you through this blog and I know I am grateful to have you in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow. And certain things that I never before understood (inside jokes by certain entertainment “stars” and writers fall into place with a loud bang! Glad to meet ya, Samoan man. 😆 (very clever and quick thinking too)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love it when you talk about work, Dad!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. That’s a good one Garry. You had them there…

    Liked by 1 person

    • They obviously didn’t have any idea what a Samoan looks like, either.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Leslie, I shared this story with Walter Cronkite on his boat, Martha’s Vineyard, 1976. He heard someone refer to me as “The Samoan”.
      He looked at me, puzzled and I suggested he refill our drinks. He did.
      Told him the whole thing.
      He stared at me with that “Uncle Walter” poker face for what seemed like a long moment.
      Then a slow smile, then he began to laugh and laugh and laugh, dropping his pipe.
      He was laughing and crying.
      Uncle Walter looked at me, at the other local journalists who gave thumbs up to confirm the veracity of my tale.
      Uncle Walter, still laughing, filled his pipe and said, “My God, we have a nation of idiots, my friend”. I nodded.
      Then, Uncle Walter said, “Okay,YOU get the next round”.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Wow, that is such a crazy story, on so many levels!

    Liked by 1 person

    Sorry for the CAPS…. that was unintended.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garry doesn’t even look remotely Samoan. You think racists are stupid, but every now and again, you realize, they are even MORE stupid than you thought.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I think that rather than being stupid, they had no idea what a Samoan looks like. So would I…. but of course it was a brill idea to throw that spanner in the works…..

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kiki, a little sidebar here. The Suits at that TV station thought little of viewers. That’s another kind of bias. They also thought since I had that trustworthy face, they could push the envelope.
          Thus, I was once assigned to infiltrate (embed) a local Vietnamese gang that was terrorizing neighborhoods. YEP! I reluctantly, VERY reluctantly met with some of the gang members who started laughing before I could finish telling them about my stupid assignment. So, they played along with the bit and allowed me to “penetrate” the Vietnamese gang. We had a hard time keeping straight faces.
          And, the TV suits smiled – convinced they’d scored a journalistic coup.

          Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t even recall why I came up with “Samoan”. It just popped into my head and I went with it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s the great thing about it – to react on a spur’s moment – and since nobody knew even if Samoans’ were a real word, it worked perfectly well….. I once got away with not paying a (then, very modest!) fine of Sfr 5.- for crossing the street closer than the ‘allotted’ 50m to the next pedestrian crossing because I only spoke in English (instead of Swiss German or German, the police person might even have known French, but not English at that time)…. NORMALLY, I come up with the PERFECT retort 48h later! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    • Kiki — the caps, eh? Yeah, it’s a wacko, crazy, funny and scary story. I can still see myself – “in the moment” and thinking (Excuse my French here) “Yikes, they actually BELIEVE me. No one else will. But THESE people believe me. We need to get the hell out of here, FAST”

      Liked by 1 person

Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Touring My Backyard

Rediscovering Singapore

Our Eyes Open

Come along on an adventure with us!

Travel with me

Travel snapshots from Toonsarah

Thoughts & Theories

My Personal Rants, Ravings, & Ruminations

France & Vincent

Writing Magic, Myth and Mystery

Barb Taub

Writing & Coffee. Especially coffee.

This, That, and The Other

Random musings on life, society, and politics.

Keep it alive

A look at life, achieving good physical and mental health and happiness

Covert Novelist

Light Hearted Mysteries

Salted Caramel

Blogging, Motivation, Lifestyle and much more.

Sarah's Attic Of Treasures

Making My Home A Haven is important to me. Sharing homemaking skills. Recipes and food. Bible Studies. This is a treasure chest of goodies. So take a seat. Have a glass of tea and enjoy. You will learn all about who I am.

Green Screen

The Environmental Movie Podcast

bushboys world

Photos of my world and other stuff I hope you will enjoy too. Photos taken with Canon PowershotSX70HS Photos can be purchased.


Independent views from someone who offers some historical context

My Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

National Day Calendar

Fun, unusual and forgotten designations on our calendar.

Cee's Photo Challenges

Teaching the art of composition for photography.

Trent's World (the Blog)

Random Ramblings and Reviews from Trent P. McDonald

Views from the Edge

To See More Clearly

serial monography: forgottenman's ruminations

wandering discourse, pedantic rant, self-indulgent drivel, languorous polemic, grammarian's bête noire, poesy encroachment approaching bombast, unintended subtext in otherwise intentional context, unorthodox unorthodoxy, self-inflected rodomontade, …

draliman on life

Because sometimes life just makes you stop and think

The English Professor at Large

Posts about old Hollywood, current concerns



The Day After

Musings, Photography, Writing, and More



Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

Welcome to the Anglo Swiss World


Your Source For The Coolest Science Stories

%d bloggers like this: