Kick a Jew Day needs to be kicked
Twenty-one percent. You can stop me when this begins to sound familiar.
Imagine that it’s mid-afternoon and you’re only now just several steps away from your front door. Classes ended a little while ago and, normally, you’d be bolting through that door and making a bee line to the kitchen for your long-awaited and well-deserved afterschool snack. Not today.
Instead, you walk quietly upstairs to the bathroom where you roll up your pant legs and study the bruises and bloody cuts on your shins and knees. You roll up your arm sleeve and wince as you gently prod the black-and-blue shape forming on your bicep. You stare at yourself in the mirror, and you begin to cry, but it’s not from the stinging or the pain.
You thought they were just your classmates. You might have considered some of them your friends, but not after this. They were laughing as they kicked and punched you and chased you from the schoolyard. They called you a Jew. Though you were unaware of it when you awoke this morning – your classmates had declared it to be “Kick a Jew Day.”
Oh, and one more thing: as you formulate this image from my description, imagine that you are a 12-year-old girl.
Some of you are currently rolling your eyes and saying, “Oh God, not another one of these articles.” You’ve heard the stories and you’re tired of being lectured about something that you really could care less about. You’re not an anti-Semite, so why do you have to hear about it every other day? To you, this is simply another generic Jewish sob story; it’s a regurgitation and amalgam of all the clichés, a mere rehash.
This, above all else, is the shame, for what I have just described to you is not a cliché. It is not a modern fable concocted out of thin air, nor out of the loose strands of several vague and interchangeable stories. What I have described to you took place only two months ago at North Naples Middle School in Naples, Fla.
This wasn’t a group of drunk college idiots. This wasn’t a group of uneducated high school thugs. These kids were middle schoolers, and unfortunately, that is not even the most disturbing aspect of this story by a long shot.
On Naple News’ website, where the story was reported, there’s a dainty little box where a reader poll asks you to rate the appropriate level of response which should have been taken by the school district as a means of punishment for the students who engaged in this shocking and despicable behavior. Four options are provided, and one may select any of the following choices: suspension, expulsion, nothing, or I’m not sure.
Before I even address what the poll results were, take a moment to reflect on those choices. Expulsion. Suspension. Nothing. Which would you select?
Your selection is your business. The poll results, on the other hand, are quite public. Out of a total 3367 respondents, 39 percent voted in favor of outright expulsion and 37 percent voted for an immediate suspension of these students, with indecision resulting in 3 percent of people not being able to make up their minds up at all. And lastly, 21 percent believed that “it was just a stupid prank.” You know, just a case of kids being kids.
I find such a response both perplexing and disturbing at the same time, and for good reason. I’ve been that kid. I’ve taken the unexpected punch to the upper arm in the middle of gym class with the accompaniment of the word “Jew,” uttered as if it was a title of guilt and shame which I should wear miserably around my neck.
Just a stupid prank? Tell that to the child who stares at herself in the mirror after school, surveying the damage done to her body as a result of a “stupid prank.” Tell that to the middle schoolers who laid in bed that night, asking themselves a single, solitary question: Why?
Anti-Semitism hasn’t changed, it has not evolved, it has not reconfigured and it certainly has not dissipated as many have hoped it would. Twenty-one percent of poll respondents think this is just a case of kids being kids.
How can you answer that question? What can you tell these children? The truth is that ultimately, there is nothing you can say or do for these children that will replace the sting of that word, nor the soreness of their bruises when they wake up the next morning, confused and scared about how they’ll be treated when they return to school.
Just know that the comments you make in jest add up and trickle down, and that intolerance and hate, whether intended or not, is the ultimate result of the mindless shrug you so casually respond with. Now imagine this entire scenario, only it’s your child who has walked in the front door with bloody knee-caps.
Charlie Felder is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.