It is Ally Week at my school. A boy (who is white) comes over to the table where I am sitting with my two best friends (none of us are white), and starts yelling in the middle of the library. “If you have something to say to me, you know where to find me.” He is upset because we confronted him about his racism and hypocrisy as part of a public conversation online. For once, Ally Week has been about the school’s POC embracing their anger and their oppressors rather than faux joviality. “Kumbaya” is dead, but we didn’t kill it. The prejudice slinking unceremoniously through our corridors did. The trade of naivete for the realization of all the acts of bigotry around us was the hardest, but I cannot think of anything that was worth more.
I cannot hear anything but my blood rushing through me for the next period. I am waiting. It seems like a small thing to be so angry about, someone yelling, but it is far more than that. It is the person in question, who has been nothing but awful and predatory to countless people in our school–including my friends. It is a matter of him exerting his privilege by pretending to be an ally in conversations and then turning around and saying the n-word or denouncing the work of women of color. It is a matter of him denying that he does anything wrong and then trying to intimidate WOC by shouting at them in public. He is an amalgamation of all the middle school racists I dreamed of leaving behind. The boy is in the next room, and I am certain that he can feel my rising body heat through the layers of insulation. “You look like someone pissed you off,” a friend says. I give her a slow smile and eye the clock, Glance number five.
The minute before class lets out I see my best friends through the small pane of the door and rush out. They have been waiting, too. He doesn’t come our way when he exits so my friend Danielle calls his name. He turns, smirks, and keeps walking. “Elliot!” I scream. “Elliot Blumenfeld!*” He is talking to his friend. People are turning around. I continue. I berate him for his racism, for his inability to properly confront us, for his general lack of decency. One of my friends walks away but I do not stop until I am done.
It isn’t over. This is just the beginning. I’m not depending on the visage of change anymore—because my life depends on it. ♦
*This name has, for obvious reasons, been changed.