A couple of stories in the news lately have me worried. First there’s the controversial Jena 6 case. I won’t go into the details of it. It’s way too controversial and media contaminated, and, at least for now, I’m not touching it with a ten-foot pole. I might as well write the word “abortion” instead of “Jena 6,” because both terms guarantee to piss off everybody, on both sides of the debate. Not worth it.
Rather than alienate my readers, I’ll instead draw your attention to the more recent case of a young girl in California who got her wrist broken by a guard at her school. According to the news reports, Pleajhia Mervin, a 16-year old high school student, dropped a birthday cake on the floor of the school cafeteria. She picked up the mess, but was then told by the security guard to pick up some crumbs she left behind. Mervin went back to pick up the crumbs, and when she was done, started walking to class. The security guard, not satisfied with the way Mervin had picked up the crumbs (WTF? Isn’t that what the janitorial staff at a school is for?) engaged in a verbal altercation with her which culminated in him slamming her against a steel grate and twisting her wrist until it broke. I cannot make this shit up, people! It was caught on a video cameraphone by an quick-on-his-feet fellow student. (Said student was also “taken down,” by the guards — WHY?? –, and his incident was also documented in a picture by yet another student, thank goodness.)
There is so much wrong with this, I don’t know where to begin: The flagrant abuse of power by the guard(s) in question; the subtle sexism (”How dare she not finish cleaning up every last crumb?” was the implication the guard’s actions carried, wordlessly); the subtle racist insult (so subtle Mervin’s mother had to explain it to her) by the guard who broke Mervin’s wrist: “nappy-head;” the fact that even daring to document the abuse of power was seen as so much of a threat by the guards that they chose to assault the rogue documentarian (who was himself another student) for NO legitimate reason… On and on and on…
Which brings me to my point, here: Where is all this racial tension coming from? Was it always there and I just didn’t notice? Is it like the sexism I didn’t notice (and I’m a woman), because it was so much of a part of life that I didn’t register the subtle jabs at women doled out by society, over and over again, those spoken and unspoken, unless and until they became as obvious as this news story? Is this a backlash of some sort? Or is it that I couldn’t put it all together before because never before was I mature enough to understand, and never before were the resources at my disposal (the internet) to help me connect all the dots? It could be all these things and more. Thank goodness for the internet; that’s all I have to say. Second only to the right to vote, it’s probably the thing that will make it possible for the ordinary person to finally have a voice.