Race & Policing in America
“Ow!” Jonny objected sharply as Billy landed a solid blow to his head, just behind and above ear, at 9:47 AM. Jonny had been sitting quietly in his seat, paying attention to Ms. Cuddy who was at the board explaining how to add two fractions with different denominators. Jonny twisted around to see what had just hit him.
At his outburst, Ms. Cuddy snapped around. “Jonny, quiet down and pay attention!”
At 10:12 Jonny grunted in response to the thump squarely put to the top of his head. This time, the teacher saw. “Billy, keep you hands to yourself. And Jonny, one, raise your hand before speaking. Two, grunting is not speach. You need to annunciate clearly for the rest of us to understand you.”
At 10:25 Jonny winced in pain as the punch connected to his ribcage. “Billy, are you bothering Jonny again? You know you’re not supposed to. And Jonny, stop making mountains out of molehills.”
At 10:38, Jonny was knocked out of his seat by Billy’s kick to his shoulder. “Jonny, what are you doing out of your seat? This is the third—no, fourth time you’ve interrupted class today. Why don’t you stand in the corner young man, until you learn how to obey the rules?”
Today was playing out just the same as it had yesterday, as it had Monday, as it had all last week and the week before that, all the way back to the beginning of the school year. Billy kept abusing him, over and over, and never suffered any real consequences. He, on the other hand, kept taking the blame.
“No!” he objected, something he’d never done before. “Ms. Cuddy, he’s been punching me, kicking me, tripping me in the halls all year. All you ever do is tell him to knock it off, then make me stand in the corner or write 300 times I will be quiet in class. This is not right, ma’am.”
Ms. Cuddy was taken aback, but quickly recovered. “Jonny, this outburst is unacceptable,” she snapped. “How dare you talk back to your superior. You’ve just lost your recess today, young man. Now get in that corner, unless you’d rather go to the principal’s office.”
The principal’s office?! Jonny glared at Ms. Cuddy. Jonny had never been sent to the principal before. Only the really bad kids were sent there, and they’d probably call his mom and dad. After several seconds of contemplation, Jonny grudgingly went to stand in the corner, again.
Fear of the principal worked for the remaining two days of the week, so he took Ms. Cuddy’s punishments as they were given, but by Monday the fear was wearing off. So after the punch right square in the ear, Jonny raised his hand as fast has he could.
“Yes, Jonny, what is it?” Ms. Cuddy asked.
“Ma’am, Billy just punched me in the ear again. It’s the third time he’s hit me today. I’m trying to listen to you, but it’s hard when I keep getting wailed on. Can you please do something?”
“Well, Jonny, maybe you should think about what you’re doing to incite Billy.”
“I… But…” Jonny reeled to process yet another out-of-the-blue blame. “Uh, ma’am, I’m not doing anything to him. I’m just trying to follow the lesson.”
“Well, Billy knows he’s not supposed to tamper with you, but boys will be boys, you know. Billy, you know to keep your hands to yourself, right?”
“Yes, Ms. Cuddy,” Billy answered.
Jonny stammered a few more times, trying to find the words. But when they wouldn’t come, he gave up and sat down, shaking his head. He rubbed his forehead as he stared at his desk, trying to work out what to do.
It wasn’t long before Billy kicked him in the leg. “Will you quit it?” Jonny yelled in response.
“Jonny, in the corner until you can learn to keep quiet during lessons.”
“No, ma’am, I will not. Not until you do something about Billy.”
“Young man, is Billy interrupting the class?”
“No, Ms. Cuddy, he’s interrupting me. He’s interrupting my lessons.”
“Jonny, stop blaming the world for your lack of focus, patience and concentration. Now do as you’re told and get in that corner,” Ms. Cuddy pointed to the corner, approaching Jonny to reinforce her authority.
Jonny paused a moment, then stood. “No ma’am, I will not. I will not take Billy’s abuse sitting down any longer. Nor your neglect of it.”
“Then you will go to the principal’s office.”
And so Jonny went to the principal’s office, where they indeed called his parents, and he got detention for the next week.
Jonny’s parents were sympathetic to him, but explained that this was the way of the world. Some people got away with murder, others were just targets of abuse. They told him how fighting it would only gain attention, and in the long run, get him in more trouble and make his life difficult. Despite being unfair, obeying Ms. Cuddy was the way to deal with it.
It was now late October, and on his parent’s advice Jonny did the best to bite his tongue and get through it. He managed to hold back the anger and frustration 3 more months, but it still boiled over at the end of January.
It was the fifth time today, and Jonny had had enough. Billy held him by the neck as he ground his knuckle into Jonny’s head, a painful, several-second noogie.
Jonny twisted, but the headlock prevented him getting free. He did, however, have enough freedom to elbow Billy in the gut. Billy let go and doubled over in pain.
“Boys! What is going on here? Billy, get back in your seat. Jonny, what did you do to Billy?”
“He was giving me a noogie! It hurt!”
“That is no excuse for retaliation. Now go to the principal’s office.”
And so Jonny received 5 days suspension from school, and an official note on his permanent school records.
On return to school, it didn’t take long. They were on their way to lunch, walking in two lines, the girls and the boys (for there was no acknowledgement of transgender kids in broken world of this allegory). They had just turned the corner toward the cafeteria when a kick to his calf caused Jonny’s knee to collapse under him, and he tumbled to the ground.
“What the fuck, man?” Jonny pushed himself up; Billy had stopped to smirk at his work. Jonny grabbed Billy by the shirt and slammed him against the wall, Billy’s face quickly turning to fear. “What the fuck?” Jonny demanded again, lifting so Billy’s feet were dangling. “I have done nothing to you all year, and you just keep punching, kicking, noogies and screwing with me. I just want to be left alone, what the hell is wrong with you?”
Three staff members grabbed Jonny and wrestled him to the ground, holding him securely, until the school resource officer came to drag him away to the principal’s office.
And so Jonny was expelled from school for his dangerous, violent behaviors. His family was investigated by the Department of Health and Human Services, and they decided Jonny’s psychology of violence was a result of his upbringing, so he was sent to a for-profit Juvenile Detention Center, where he would no longer be threat to society (at least until his obligatory release at age 18), and some profiteering capitalists could make money off the deal.
And Billy was happy because he didn’t need to see Jonny anymore, and he was terrified by Jonny, who had attacked him. Ms. Cuddy was happy because Jonny wasn’t interrupting class time anymore. And since they’re the only people that matter in this story, everyone lived happily ever after.