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September 28, 2016

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.

Still shrugging?

Charlie Felder is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at charlie.felder@gmail.com.

Comments
2 Responses to “Kick a Jew Day needs to be kicked”
  1. Anonymous says:

    I find this column offensive, troubling, and downright dangerous. It is like feminists who fail to distinguish between a sexist comment and a forcable rape, in considering both evils equal they diminish the true horror of the latter.

    The girl mentioned here was the victim of a criminal assault. I’ve been there, my left arm maliciously broken in 7th grade, had so many concussions before the age of 18 that my eye doctor quietly warns me that another one could cost me my vision.

    The girl will be scarred for life, as I have been. Years later, it still is a really bad idea to be less than 3 feet behind me and move suddenly. I have worse reflexes than guys coming back from Iraq…

    I don’t care if the felonious criminal assault was motivated by religious bigotry or commercial interest (mugging) or because of some Clockwork Orange love of violence for its own sense. It does not matter, I do not care: thugs who do such things simply do not belong in society. I don’t care if they are 12 years old or 120 years old, they belong behind bars.

    I don’t care why they did it. They belong in jail. Behind bars.

    And to raise the legitimate (and very real) issue of antisemitism is to only diminish the true horror of this incident. She was less traumatized and terrorized because she had an adjective to describe the trauma and terror? You really believe this?

    The social contract is that an attack on any one of us is an attack on all. All of society – Protestant, Catholic, Moslem, Agnostic (and Jewish) was attacked when that girl was beaten. That is the point that is being missed here, what was done to her was wrong regardless of the reason and it isn’t supposed to be done to anyone. Her rights as a human being were violated, not her rights as a Jew but he even more basic rights as a human being.

    There is also the larger issue of bullying. It is not acceptable and it really doesn’t matter what the motive, it simply is not acceptable. And instead of an ever-expansive list of adjectives describing this horror, why don’t we just say “never again.” Never again. That is what those who survived the holocaust said – never again – to anyone. Anyone.

    Would it hurt less if someone punched you and said “I hate people with brown (red, green, whatever) hair? It is about power and oppression and it is inherently wrong and it doesn’t matter why.

    And as to bullying, if Drs. Rockland-Miller and Vanin were truly interested in the well being of this campus, they would make the ACT group a little bit less of a lynch mob and a little more of an investigation into how mid-level administrators routinely bully students and how that is the root of the problems that so concern them…

  2. muad'dib says:

    “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.”

    Why the fuck do people think like this? Anti-semitism *does* mutate… in the same way that HIV mutates.

    The cure is to give those kids a taste of their own medicine. How about “Kick a Christian Day”?

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