Home > People Can Be Idiots, Race > Beatings, Race, and Memories

Beatings, Race, and Memories

September 16th, 2009

The right-wing pundits are all over a couple of black schoolkids beating up a white schoolkid on a bus, making a big deal over race and how black leaders are not falling over themselves to own the incident and apologize. This despite the fact that it has now been established that the beating had no racial component whatsoever. Limbaugh is spouting that it’s Obama’s fault. I’ll buy that when Bush owns up to every act of violence committed against black people by white people during his eight years in office.

When I was in high school, I was packing up in the locker room after a P.E. class. I heard two kids arguing at the other end of the room. I circumspectly ignored the dispute, and don’t recall much else until I heard someone behind me shout, “And don’t you laugh, either!” Before I could even turn around to look, my head was slammed against my locker door so hard that I actually lost consciousness for a moment–only one of two times that’s ever happened to me, and the worst concussion I have ever sustained. That the assailant was black and I am white had nothing to do with it. Sometimes a beating is just a beating.

On a side note, that incident really burns me to this day. Not that the kid took out his anger at not being able to beat up on another kid so he took it out on an unwary bystander. No, it was the high school vice principal, who heard about the incident (I didn’t even report it myself, I forget why not), and called us both into his office. The idiot actually used the old “I don’t care who started it line” and forced me to shake hands with the assailant to show there were no hard feelings. Isn’t that sweet? In an completely one-sided and unprovoked beating, one person indiscriminately uses enough violent force on another to potentially cause serious injury or even death, and the adult in charge doesn’t want to bother with the details. Instead he lets the assailant off with a handshake from his victim. I was too young and timid in those days (not to mention shocked and overwhelmed by the unfairness) to say anything, but I wish I could go back in time and confront the unspeakable moron. My darker half would have me take the guy’s head, slam it into a wall, and then tell him to shake my hand in reconciliation because, after all, we were not interested in who started what, right?

On another tangential side note (getting way off the original topic now, stream-of-consciousness time here), speaking of losing consciousness, my second worst concussion I referenced above was at a miniature golf course, also in my high school days. The 19th hole was a narrow ramp at an upwards angle into the end of a pipe, a hard putt shot which, if you made it, got you a free game. After finishing up, I and some others gathered around the back end of the setup to watch others make the difficult shot. One genius, completely without warning, thought he’d drive the ball into the hole, taking a huge swing worthy of a 100-yard shot. The ball cleared the entire setup and hit me square in the forehead at high speed. I swear I can even today still feel the dent the ball made in my skull. By the time I came to a few moments later, the culprit had run off. Kids.

In an attempt to bring this back to the main topic, in the miniature golf incident, both the assailant and I were white.

I never got Ronald Reagan’s apology for that one.

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  1. Ken
    September 18th, 2009 at 02:16 | #1

    To me, this is one of your more intriguing posts because it is so personal. I am surprised no one else has responded to it. We can all relate to your high school memory; one that is so painful that it comes back to haunt us from time to time. Many of us have similar memories of being unjustly treated, or having our emotions ignored because we were “just kids” and one should just “let boys be boys.”
    The seriousness of your injuries and/or emotional trauma was never acknowledged, which just amplified the original pain. It would have better to just avoid the authorities altogether. It is hard to fathom such incompetence!

    The thing to remember when dealing with this kind of unpleasant memory is that those people who caused you pain have moved on with their lives, just as you have. You are no longer a skinny, timid high school youth, but an accomplished, free-thinking social commentator with tens of thousands of readers. Likewise, that kid who assaulted you has grown up to become a productive member of society and made his own accomplishments.
    Moreover, that vice principal has long retired and may quite possibly have passed on by now.

    Personally, I remember two such bullies when I was in Jr. High. I was timid and lanky, too, so I was tested by those kids almost every time I crossed their paths. At last count, one of them had moved away to another state, married with two kids. The other boy died tragically in a house fire a few years after graduation…

    So there is little point in harnessing years and years of anger and resentment when the reality is quite different. Those people no longer exist in the form that we remember them. They are only childhood memories, shadows and ghosts…

    Finally, we can learn from those bad experiences, and hence, become better parents/teachers. Because of such experiences, we will take care to acknowledge our own children’s pain, and recognize the difference between a little roughness and unwarrented assauts. Always channel those painful memories into something productive. Little by little, the pain will heal itself.

    Thanks for letting me vent!

  2. Luis
    September 18th, 2009 at 09:19 | #2

    Oh, not to worry, I rarely even think of these things anymore, and not with such great angst. I simply recognize the idiocy of that vice-principle, and am fully aware that the kids who were bullies then either painfully recognize what schmucks they were being, or else are the kind of people today that I would more pity than hate. The memory occurred to me, but it does not haunt me. As they say, time heals all wounds, but it also wounds all heels.

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