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By Kathy Y. Wilson · April 21st, 2004 · Your Negro Tour Guide
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Students and faculty at Columbine High School staying home Tuesday to observe the five-year-old carnage wreaked by two geeks says, "We're here!"

New time and day, same program. (Announcer: The studio audience has been silenced.)

Remember when a public display of misplaced hostility was called going postal?

When Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris went Columbine five years ago, none of us knew what to think. Shit, at CityBeat we fumbled around, touching on all kinds of ways to repay the public display of stupidity.

All along I wondered if and when there would be a public meditation on Columbine excluding the words "how could this happen."

I think back on all those times the media pelted us with stories of urban (read that as black/brown) schools with metal detectors and how hard it was keeping gang violence at bay and assaults down. Brown faces telling bad stories.

I can't recall any correlative media pieces, however, on affluent (read that as white) schools rife with gun-toting boys but lacking metal detectors.

I wasn't bundled with rage in high school. It was at my second elementary school that I wanted to get back at the kids who, threatened by my Otherness, mind-fucked me until my love for school diminished to headaches, painful shyness and prepubescent solitude.

There was a small creek running behind our complex. It separated our lower, middle-class community from the school and the working, middle-class, home-owning white families encircling the school.

Some differences between us were obvious.

But not in the classroom. We were either smart or we weren't.

My brother Kenny and I comprised two of the five blacks in the building; two others were husband-and-wife teachers. It was the other black student, a girl in my grade, who first picked at me for crowding her out of the Colored Section of the Big House. In little girl language, I was cutting in on her Cute Smart Black Girl Territory.

I silently had it in for her.

The creek figured prominently in my revenge fantasies against the other main culprit. He daily terrorized me by putting pictures on my desk of the Ku Klux Klan lynching black people. I didn't tell on him until he started telling me I'd be next.

We just stopped and stared at each other that hot, still, lonely summer day. By happenstance, we converged on the creek at the same time.

In my gut, I was more afraid for him. I'd corked so much repressed anger, I could've choked and drowned him right then and there.

"She was the quiet type," my mother and brothers would've explained to cameras and family.

My tormentor's death by my hand would have been shocking because there'd been no precedent of black girls retaliating against white boys.

By the time Klebold and Harris shot and killed 12 students, a teacher (Dave Sanders) and themselves, we knew when we heard "school shootings" it wouldn't be an anniversary story about Kent State. We knew by the time of Columbine that mainly white boys were shooting up schools.

By April 20, 1999, high schools across America had been terrorized by video game-blaming, Rap-blaming, Metal-blaming crazy-ass kids whose parents hadn't questioned target practice or strange odors from the garage.

If we all keep thinking it can never happen to us, who will be left to document it when it does?

Remember when a gallon of gas got you a commemorative glass or a plate and you bought gas 'til you had a place setting? Now war's made gas too high, death's the only thing we commemorate with regularity in America and the only dishes are satellites feeding us the junk for which we fiend but which makes us sick.

I, too, watched these stories, looking for forgiveness in the faces of the dead kids' families.

"I'm not quite there yet," said one father when Charlie Gibson asked him if he could forgive the "people who did this." In the silence of the signal's delay before the father answered, it dawned on me that Gibson hadn't called the killers by name. By story's end, he still hadn't.

This time annually we'll peel off another calendar's page and, by the end of the look-back stories, what's the lesson?

Administrators at Columbine High School have ratcheted up security. There are more cameras and a key card system in place. It's like the high school is a government agency with secrets to protect.

Here's a vulnerable one: There still aren't any metal detectors.

We never see the obvious. Until mourning time.



Kathy's collection of columns, Your Negro Tour Guide: Truths in Black and White, is available in bookstores now.
 
 
 
 

 

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