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Attack a Child Today (3 of 4)

November 14, 2015

On page 1 of this episode I was thinking about that girl being thrown across the classroom floor. I suggested that the main point is that adults should not inflict physical violence upon any child under any circumstances (except under threat of deadly violence by the child).

I’m still finding it hard to imagine that an adult would act the way we saw that police officer act in that film; but the more I think about it, the more thinkable it becomes, as I’ll explain on this page and page 4.

The student in the film is young, female, and black.

She might also be gifted, but what’s the chance we’d ever find out; most of us are not gifted with the high-functioning mind of a young Dr. Carson—and he was male. Plus, he had a very supportive mother, while she has been raised in foster homes.

Ellison’s protagonist in Invisible Man is also male; but that title refers mainly to our invisible humanity, and judging from the way we treat each other, a black woman is doubly invisible, for her color and her gender, she would not be seen by many people (who aren’t black women) as a representative of our humanity.

And in South Carolina? A while back I spent a couple weeks in SC, teaching poetry writing in a summer program for advanced (highly motivated and high achieving), high school “rising seniors” from around the state. There were a few black students. No black instructor (including me), but a couple of female instructors. The staff also attended a variety of private gatherings of donors (none black) and public events (few black audience members).

More than a quarter of the citizens of SC are black.

Maybe (probably) my bias was affecting my “vision,” but I thought it didn’t take me long to catch on to the financial hierarchy and social stratification of the state.

So here she is, and if this young woman is like millions of others in her circumstances in America (and not only African-Americans), she’s going nowhere but hard times. She knows existentially that she doesn’t stand a chance, and she knows existentially that she deserves to stand a chance—as do we all.

At this moment she’s in math class, and apparently she finds her cell phone more interesting than anything her math teacher is saying. Should anybody be surprised? And if she refuses to give it up?

It takes a healthy adult to understand and to respond appropriately to that student.

To the understanding of this novel, this student’s humanity was so invisible, in SC and in many places in America, that it took an assault by an adult white male in a uniform, in the presence of a young black female student with a smart phone, for her to register on a film.

Or as I’ll suggest on page 4, she was assaulted because she was only an image, but a particular image, when that officer walked into the room.

And btw, police violence against black citizens, which has been going on since before the Civil War, intensified during and after Reconstruction, and rages today, is state-sponsored terrorism, aimed at keeping black citizens “in their place”—invisibility.

[Pages 2, 4]

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