Monday morning after a Friday afternoon fight is always crazy. The police, parents, and injured students fill the office with energy, witness statements, and revelations by the minute. The good news is that my student has been released from the hospital with bruises and scratches and some Vicodin. The bad news is an entire family left campus in the backs of police cars and tomorrow my colleague begins work on two expulsion packets.
My community is ghetto. It’s a derogatory term but it holds much truth. In my community, parents younger than me drive their teenage children to fight scenes, carry steak knives in their trunks, and show up to our offices high as bats on marijuana and other drugs. In my community, young men of color challenge their older counterparts to go ahead and shoot. Girls know what wearing sweatpants and tying up your hair really means. Text messaging and MySpace are weapons in the arsenal of bitterness and retaliation. Fights are seldom fair and often involve play sisters, cousins, and neighborhood thugs. No one wants to press charges.
Truth? Truth has many versions and remixes. I spoke to my student today. While I believe what she told me, I know there were omissions and changes when I compared her story to that of the other eyewitnesses. All I can do is continue to promote good choices and the development of good character. It sounds so rote and superficial. But I grew up in my community. I want these kids to know that there is hope for a better life, that they can be better people. They are so shocked when I tell them I’ve never been in a physical fight. They think me ferocious, a pit bull in a twinset. They wonder how I could have gotten so far, as small as I am, without resorting to my fists or a razor blade or making phone calls to bigger, stronger associates.
When I walked around my workplace on this beautiful spring day, my heart heavy with my personal issues, I looked at my children, their lovely brown and black faces, their colorful clothes and language. Most of them are not caught in the cycle of violence. Or at least, for a few hours a weekday, they are removed from what surrounds them.