Sunday, February 20, 2005
The following essay was written a couple years ago by an alternative high school student in Brooklyn Park, where I used to teach. It was previously printed in the school literary magazine with his name attached, but since I don’t know how to contact him anymore, I’m not using his last name here.
The Scars of Racism
By Allen B.
The story I’m going to tell takes place in a time when I thought racism was gone. I was thirteen when me and my family moved to Marietta, Georgia, in the country. My mom always wanted to live in the country and buy her own land. After hard work, she finally saved enough money to buy our house. It was three stories, with five bedrooms and two and a half baths, as well as a large basement. It had a nice blue-gray color that made it different from the other houses in the neighborhood.
After living there for about three months, I met new friends and found myself to be adventurous. One day around five in the afternoon, I was traveling in the woods behind my house until I came upon a barn and got interested. This could be a new fort, a place where me and my friends could hang out., so I decided to check it out. I looked around for a minute then was gong to go home to call my friends and tell them about the place.
Just as I turned the corner, a man, a white man, walked up to me and asked what I was doing there. I told him I was just walking around and said, “Sorry, it won’t happen again.” I started to walk off.
The man said, “I don’t think so.” He quickly grabbed me by my shirt and threw me back into the barn.
I asked, “What are you doing?”
“You’re not going anywhere, boy,” he said.
“Get out of my way,” I replied.
Then he pushed me to the floor. I got back up and got a stick that was behind me. I said, “If you don’t move, I’m going to hit you.”
Right after that, five other grown men appeared. They looked like they were in their mid-thirties or early forties. They talked among themselves, real low. I thought, What the hell are they going to do to me?
After two minutes of talking, they told me they were going to teach me a lesson about trespassing. They all ganged up on me and threw me to the floor. Each one of my arms and legs had a guy holding it down to make sure I wouldn’t move. Then they took a hot cow brander and pressed it against my arm. It was so painful that I passed out.
While all this was happening, my dog had followed me in and I didn’t know. While they were burning me, my dog, a German Shepard, attacked them but they pulled out a gun and shot him in the ear.
He got away and got back home. My mom was washing the dishes when she heard the dog bark. She saw that he was bleeding from the ear and called my dad. She told him the dog was bleeding and jumping up and down like a wild animal. He asked if all the kids were home. She told him I’d gone out to play. He told her he was coming home because he had a bad feeling.
As soon as my dad came home, he went for his gun and followed my dog back to where I was. When he got there, I was beaten up and knocked out. He rushed me to the hospital.
When I woke up, I saw my whole family around me. They asked, “Are you alright? Do you know who did this?” and questions like that. I couldn’t answer them because I was so scared this might happen again.
I went through a lot of counseling because I wasn’t talking. I didn’t talk for about five months. After the months went by, I met other people that had also gone through terrifying experiences. I even met some white people who had marks on their bodies. That’s when I realized not all white people are racist.
The point I’m trying to get across is that you shouldn’t trust just anyone and that things like that still happen.
Note: Allen first shared this experience in his English class as a speech. You could have heard a pin drop on the carpet as he spoke, tears falling as he rolled up his sleeve to show the scars. He explained that police said the KKK was having a meeting at the barn that night. No one was ever charged for the crime. Allen’s speech was the first time since counseling that he shared his experience with anyone outside his family.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
State of the Union Testimony From Some Kids
While cleaning out my office, I came across a folder of some high school students' writings on their experiences of police brutality. Some samples follow. (Edited for brevity.)
1. I have a friend who was traumatized just thinking about police after all of his personal experiences, being called racist names and abused for no reason at all. One time he just said something to the cops and they beat him so badly that they broke three of his fingers. He had to go to therapy and to carry a weapon just to not worry about his life being in danger. Some people say that there really aren’t many people who have been assaulted by police or there would be lawsuits. But the people who get abused are afraid to stand up for themselves and the police have the judge on their side.
-A. (black male)
2. The people we were going to fight were racist but the police only pulled over the car with the black people in it and let everyone else go. The cop felt me up and touched my booty. Another time, me and my friend got held up at gunpoint by the police. The cop told me I shouldn’t get myself into “situations” because sometimes “accidents” happened. I took it as he was threatening me personally. I was in a raid over North and I had $150 on me. The police searched me and took my rings and my money, saying my money was drug money.
–F. (black female)
3. Me and my friend and her kid were getting chased by like five cars, all of them AABs [“All-American Boys,” a racist, generally intolerant group of students started by administrators at Anoka High]. When we stopped, they got out and started talking shit until the cops came. The cops told them right away that they could leave.
-T. (white female)
4. One day I got into a fight and we left to go to a buddy’s house. A cop pulled up past me, stopped, then put it in reverse and gunned it. My friends yelled, “Watch out.” When I turned around, he hit me with his car. I told him I was going to bring him to court and he said I’m too stupid to bring him to court but he was wrong.
–J. (white male)
5. I was walking down the street with one of my friends and all of a sudden a cop drove upside me, got out of his car and told me to put my hands on my head. He asked if I had anything on me. I said yeah a lighter and started to grab it. He choked me with my shirt and slammed my face hard into the hood of the car twice in a row.
-T. (white male)
6. Me and my 19-year-old brother was walking home from the store and two cops pulled up and asked for ID. Neither of us had ID. So he told us to sit on the ground. Then another cop pulled up and also asked us for ID. We still didn’t have any so we sat there for another five minutes. The second cop said he’d take it from here. Me and my brother were scared. He told us we were going for the ride of our lives. He put us into the trunk. My brother told me it will be OK. The officer drove us around for about 15 minutes and then stopped and put us in the back seat and took us home. We decided not to tell our parents until a month later and it was too late. We never got his name or his badge or car number.
–L (black male)
These things go on every day, all over this country. I'd really, really like to see us fix our problems at home before trying to export our ways all over the world. How about you?
More info below.