My time as a white student at Malcolm X Middle School
|Between my 4th and 5th grades my fifteen year old sister began a relationship with a man who alienated her from her family. He contacted our rejected father in Illinois and was able to obtain his permission to take my sister from California to Texas to be married. My mother tried to fight the situation but because of the legal marriage the police would do nothing to help her. My sister had been an employee of my mother in her craft business and we suffered financially as well as the emotional harm it caused my mother. We moved to a rough area of Oakland and Mom decided to allow the Berkeley school district to believe that we still lived at an address that would allow me to attend school there. The Bart system was just beginning and we had a connection between Malcolm X Middle School and our home in Oakland.
The level of abuse and violence at that school was extreme back then. I was attacked by two boys who waited in the hall after class on my first day. It was made more terrifying since there had been no provocation of any sort before the attack. I ran from the attackers and back to the class where the teacher was still present. I told him about my problem he acted like there was something wrong with me. He said he wished I had not come back into his classroom because that made me a snitch and they'd go after me harder.
I found myself under constant attack in and out of the classroom. When I attempted to take out an instrument from the music department, a cello, it was stolen from the music room and the staff said it was my fault for leaving it unattended and I would not be trusted with anything again.
In the classroom I was bullied by everyone except a small group of kids who were outside of the bullying but they did not want anything to do with me either. Our teacher was a bland Caucasian who I recall leading the class in lessons on a story about kids who explore a cave and "A Raisin In The Sun." She also assigned a writing exercise to write a limerick. She led a field trip to Alcatraz Island and we viewed the old prison. And once a man came to our class and had us all copying the lyrics to the song "Love Train."
One day I jumped one of my most persistent abusers from the group bullying I suffered in class. After tackling him I sat on his chest and beat him in the face. This case that was brought before the principal. At the hearing the other party spoke first, and through his tears, told everything that he had been doing to me, as though it were reversed. He was now the one who was persistently bullied.
I was taken from the general playground for a period and along with a black boy was given a project by the black principal to perform in a movie of Blacula meets Dracula. I liked playing with the other boy and we were very serious about the movie. We decided that part of the school's structure was an essential set, but the principal said stay off of those dangerous railings. We continued to act out our scenes on our set and the principal sent us back to the playground.
At lunch one day I became targeted by a group of shakedown artists who began chasing me for my money. Eventually I found a kid who invited me to play hooky. We started meeting every day to hang out on the streets. We played pinball and visited the University of California campus and went sailing on the Berkeley Bay once when invited to join a crew.
My friend was caught but since the school did not have my correct address I remained free. Without a friend I spent my time in the Berkeley Public Library.
Last thought: The teacher who told me I was a snitch was white and the kid I beat up and saw the principal over was as well. I did not want to say so in the article because I wanted to de-emphasis race, and continually pointing out every individuals race would have defeated my intent. As I began my attack on the kid I abused, I wondered what the response would be from the mob who usually chanted "It's a fight, a fight , between a nigger and a white." They began the chant but a corrective opinion swung immediately through our crier population.