Saturday, September 19, 2009

Acting White: Belleville (MO) Beat Down of White Student

My first and last thought, after watching this violence, is that the assailants should be prosecuted as adults and locked away, without hesitation. If race was a factor, they should be charged with hate crimes too.

In between, I am asking myself why did this happen? I can't fathom this kind of violence in my own fourteen-year old boy's life, but that's just because I haven't given it enough of my attention. I'm thinking the world is a different place than when I was a kid. Wrong.

All I had to do is put myself in that white kid's place and it all came rushing back to me. At fourteen I rode to school with an all-white bus load of boys, with seating priority going to upper-class-men. When the bus was full, the toughest of the 9th through 12th grade boys would take an entire seat leaving the late-comers to stand. Any boy who forced himself into a seat was risking a fight. I saw my share of white-on-white ass-whippings.

I decided early-on to make myself the "Rosa Parks" exception to this standing rule, by not flinching to fight the first kid who tried to block me from sitting. I wanted everyone to know that to block me was to fight me, win or lose, with no discussion or guesswork. After my first battle, I never stood and I never made anyone else stand either. However, I shudder to think of how I looked that day I punched out a kid who was just showing off for his friends.

In my case and thirty-five years ago, it wasn't so much a race thing as it was dumb-male ritual. For the tough guys, giving up 'your' seat was akin to saying you were a punk. Maybe this is what was happening on the Belleville High bus, but the level of violence seemed greater. The black boys were wrong and I hope they are punished no-less than the severity of their behavior. No excuses.

James C. Collier


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Anonymous said...

It was about as bad as it can get with school violence and bullying.

The kid is lucky he didn't have very serious injuries.

I don;t know if it was racial. I guess only the kid that was doing the beating knows if he was doing it for racial or semi-racial reasons.

It was wrong for whatever the reasons and he should be punished to the full extent but then he and the ones that went along with it should receive some kind of counseling to learn it is unacceptable.

On another note there was a video of an incident where a black man with his son got on the subway. The man told the boy, maybe 5, to go sit. The man then took a hammer out of a bag and starting viciously beating a black man sleeping in a nearby seat.

As shocking as it was it was even more shocking to see all the nearby male passengers, all black, not try to stop the attack.
They just got out the way and let the man beat the guy with a hammer.

I just don't someone allowing that to happen.
Sort of in the same vein as the bus beating.

So what the heck is going on and does it start at a young age or what?

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to track the lives of the assailants for the next 3 years or so to see if this episode is a harbinger of things to come with the criminal justice system. Hopefully, all the negative attention they're receiving will impart a life lesson that might get them to straighten up and fly right.

Michael H said...

shutter -> shudder: I shuddered when I read what you wrote James.

I think the telling note from the reporter's recounting of the incident is that the boy was repeatedly blocked from several other seats before the bus driver ordered him to sit down.

Confronted with the choice of getting into it with the bus driver or taking a seat next to one of the kids that was blocking him, he chose the latter. It's possible that this kid was an outcast and nobody wanted to share a seat with him.

You'd have to ask the kids on the bus why he was shunned like that. But remembering my school days, I knew several kids like that who for some reason or other became the official doormats for the rest of the student body. It's what kids do.

Unfair, violent, shocking, and tragic are words that come to mind trying to describe what I felt watching that video. But definitely not uncommon.

Anonymous said...

"Unfair, violent, shocking, and tragic are words that come to mind trying to describe what I felt watching that video. But definitely not uncommon."

Define "uncommon"...

Yes, there are unpopular kids at every high school. But most of them don't get badly beaten for no reason while a bus full of students cheers on their assailant.

Any parent who sends their white child to a majority-black school is insane.

Kazure said...

I agree with the theory that this event was just ritual. As a tiny, 7 year old white girl, I was almost beaten daily on the bus (by white girls). Buses are turf-wars on wheels. Not that I'm condoning this brutality at all, it's just that the hypersensitivity of the race card is overshadowing other motivational factors - like testosterone.

Jeff said...

Are you suggesting that they are just acting white?! lol

Anonymous said...

What did the white kid do to warrant a beat down, I know quite a few white boys deserving of a beat down!

cyrus said...

Dear James,

Thanks for all your articles. My brother is black. I am white. My local school was very mixed but maybe 25 whites out of 3000. I got the racial slur a bit. But even if the majority ran the other way, I wouldn't have played the race card. It was never my nature. For it contains a lie. Skin colour never defines character. It may only define where you were born or your ancestry. That's it. My skills are to teach literacy and drug education. I do it in Sydney with at risk youth. Usually of colour, for whatever reason. My purpose is to raise any culture to a higher level. My method is to increase ability. I want to help my brothers from other races, tribes and nations. But HELP is so often suspect. That's why I chose to teach literacy, drug ed and life skills. I want to help people help themselves. I don't want to "show people the path", I want to give people the ability to find their own path. My reality, ideas and vision may not always fit or jibe with others. So therefore, help others to help themselves. Beyond that, I am skilled at administration. So I like to help people learn how to organize. Because if a culture is to rise up in the face of oppression, it must be well organized--and able.


Anonymous said...

Belleville is in Illinois, not Missouri.