High School Bullies

>> Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Knowing that I like reading about food, a friend gave me a month old issue of Philadelphia Magazine where on the cover Iron Chef and Philadelphia Restaurateur Jose Garces is holding a baby pig with a shit-faced grin, perversely promoting the suckling pig meal at one of his restaurants. What I didn't expect was a detailed story in the magazine about the racial conflicts amongst Asian and Black students in high schools all over Philadelphia.

No one seems to know how it started, even though some seems to think that it might have something to do with Asians moving into neighborhood and taking over the corner grocery stores and driving up housing prices by acquiring them and remodeling them, though I thought there was always a large Asian community.

All we know is that those Asians who like to keep to themselves are picked on by black students as sources of amusement. Every day 70 to 100 Black students would roam and block off hallways where ESL (English as a Second Language) classrooms are located and pick random Asian student targets to beat up and laugh from it. Since the perpetrators are numerous, the victims have a tough time pointing them out. After a while, a culture is created where the Asian students expect to be bullied and the school administration look the other way.

The Asian students tries to boycott the school while others have to drop out altogether just so that they can feel safe, but still nothing happened. In October 2008, thirty Black students chased 5 Asians down a subway station and beat them down which they were later hospitalized. Last December, seventy Black students started beating every Asian students in their path, a few of them suffered head and face injuries, one suffered his nose smashed and broken that he has a nose bleed non-stop. School police and the school sergeant also got pushed around which speak to a non-existing school security.

For the following 8 days, the Asian students gathered in Chinatown where a temporary classroom were put together for them to do classwork and study while a representative go to the school to gather coursework. On December 3rd, the media got hold of the story and placed an enormous pressure on the school and the school district to deal with the problem. 126 new security cameras are put in place, more security staff and counselors are placed to help the students. The principal resigned. As those victims are graduating, their hopes remain to be for the school climate to change for the better for future immigrants but no one could be sure that it will.

Throughout all this I'm shocked that not one student who incite violence had been criminally charged or disciplined in any sense. If that's the case, how could anybody learn from this? If beating up people has no consequences, why would anybody stop? If I were to be young again and attending class in South Philadelphia High, the first thing I'd do is to arm myself. If I were richer and know that this is happening, I would at least buy the students some mace or a folding knife if I can't distribute handguns. How else do you defend yourself against 70 people who all want a piece of you? Regardless of race, people only respond to danger. Since they are beating you up for no reason, how can you reason with them? Unfortunately I don't know how to be tactful when I'm physically threatened.

When I was in high school, we have a system where 3 warnings become a small demeanor, 3 small demeanors become a big demeanor and 3 big demeanors will get you expelled. When even getting late to class deserves a warning, we all strive to be perfect. It was strict, but at least we behaved and nobody ever got sent to the hospital because they were beat up.

I was reminded of Dan Savage's recent video campaign in effort to help gay teens from killing themselves. If anyone get bullied, all they have to know if it'll get better when you get out of high school. Life is not over just because some asshole decides to pick on you. Happiness will come eventually, and the bullying assholes will most likely end up in jail.

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