Milk-N-Things

April 21, 2012

Major fire Sunday evening at F&Y Store (formerly Milk-n-Things), Grand Cleaners, Pelham, New York, March 9, 2008. (PelhamWeekly.com). Qualifies as fair use because of low resolution of picture and subject of this blog post.

As most folks who aren’t Black males have learned in the past couple of months, part of our collective coming-of-age story involves this sordid and cruel rite of passage to manhood. One in which people we’ve known since childhood suddenly start to treat us as if we’ve committed a crime or an unpardonable sin. No matter how smart, how tall or short, how athletic or waif-like, this ritual has continued unabated in American culture for as long as there have been free Black males living their lives.

My whole year between my seventeenth and eighteenth birthday in ’87 was like that. Between a crossing guard I’d know since third grade, some of my classmates, my idiot Mount Vernon High School principal, the late Richard Capozzola (see post “Capo, Mi Capo” from September ’09) and Tower Records (see my post “Why Black Men Carry A Public Anger” from March ’12). I was constantly shown through their eyes how my man-sized Black body was a threat to them.

One of the bigger kickers that year was an incident at the former Pelham, New York mini-mart Milk-n-Things. It was in a strip mall across the street from a Mobil gas station, off a Hutchinson River Parkway exit, just across the bridge on East Lincoln connecting Mount Vernon to Pelham. The store was two doors down from the laundromat in which we washed our clothes every week (or just about) between ’78 and ’87, and next to Hutchinson Elementary School and Pelham Library.

I’d been shopping there on my own since ’77, before I’d started third grade. Over the years, I’d gotten used to the smell of cheap cologne, the noise of broken Italian and Brooklyn-ese as spoken by the Hair Club for Couples, the people who owned Milk-n-Things. Not to mention their love of all things from the ’50s, especially with a gigantic picture of Frank Sinatra on the wall that greeted customers upon entrance. By the time I was fourteen, it dawned on me that these folks may have been mobbed up, but what did that matter to me?

Then one day in April ’87, the Italian folks who owned Milk-n-Things reacted to me as if they’d never seen me before. As usual, I went there to buy a few groceries late in the evening, somewhere around 9 pm, when C-Town had already closed. Milk, eggs and butter were among the things I planned to buy. When I got to the counter, the old Italian lady said, “I got you on camera.”

“On camera doing what?,” I asked without thinking.

“You know whatcha been up to. I got you stealing, thief,” she said as if she had another word in mind.

“There’s no way you could have me on camera. You might have someone else on camera, but I know I haven’t stolen a thing,” I said, as I felt both hurt and rage coming out of me.

“Get out of my store now before I call the cops!,” the woman yelled.

I left the groceries and took back my money, feeling persecuted. This was a store I’d been shopping at for ten years. Now this Frank Sinatra-worshiping bitch has the nerve to accuse me of stealing right out of the blue? “Fine,” I thought. “You’re not getting another dime of my money.” That was the last time I shopped there.

I actually didn’t step foot into the space again until ’06, during a Thanksgiving visit with family. By that time, it was no longer Milk-n-Things, and the Italians who owned the place had long since moved away. I went in, realized they had nothing I wanted, and left. No one walked up to me to check my pockets as I walked out. I was mildly surprised.


The Value of An American (Black) Life

April 4, 2012

Flag and flag pole from US Marine Corps War Memorial, Arlington, VA, March 31, 2006. (Christopher Hollis via Wikipedia). In public domain via Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

I learned years ago that many in this great country in which I’m a citizen didn’t value my life relative to other citizens. It wasn’t just my right to live that has occasionally come into question. It was my right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” including in K-12 education, higher education, the world of work, where I should live, how I should speak, what I should wear, and whether I should have any success or joy in my life. To have to fight for the most basic and assumed of rights in the richest and most powerful nation on Earth is exhausting, disheartening and maddening.

But enough about my own experience at forty-two years and three months. Recent events involving Whitney Houston, Trayvon Martin and Rick Santorum also illustrate the lack of value some Americans place on other Americans’ lives. We know now after the release of Houston’s final autopsy and toxicology report that in her final days cocaine, alcohol and over-the-counter medications fueled her bloodstream, and years of heart disease combined to an overdose, accidental drowning and death in February. We all know how sad and tragic Whitney’s end was, and the outpouring of support and condolences from all over the world for her and her family.

At the same time, this shows the lack of value Whitney placed on her own life, at least in her final days and moments. More importantly, the death of this once great diva also showed how little the folks around Houston valued her life, and how she lived her life, over her final years and days. I’m not just talking about Whitney’s drug use, alcohol abuse or even taking care of her body and heart. Really, it’s about being a true friend, a person willing to sacrifice a friendship in order to save a friend, to help a friend find herself (or himself, as the case may be). The fact that Whitney is dead is evidence that there weren’t many folks looking out for her best interests in her life, including her.

The Trayvon Martin case is more evidence that some American lives are worth more than others. After more than three weeks of media coverage, we’ve confirmed that, if nothing else. First in line is the great George Zimmerman, the man of the people — at least some of them. He cared another about the life that he took to call Martin among the “assholes [who] always get away” and a “fucking coon.” Second was the Sanford PD, who closed their investigation within hours of beginning it, and took three days to notify Martin’s parents that their seventeen-year-old son was dead. This despite the fact the parents had filed a missing persons report with this same police department. Third in line is the city of Sanford itself, as well as Florida justice in general. It’s been five weeks, and Zimmerman still has yet to be arrested, much less charged or indicted, much less a trial. I guess, in the end, that Zimmerman’s life is worth more than Martin’s to some Americans.

Then there are the words of Rick “Sanitarium” Santorum, a GOP presidential candidate caught frothing out of his butthole for a mouth last Friday. During a speech in Wisconsin, Santorum said “nig-,” then stopped himself, stumbled and started again with “America…” in making a completely different point. Santorum rarely, if ever, describes President Barack Obama as “President Barack Obama.” Him and his opponents have all but allowed constituents to attend their rallies with guns and a bulls-eye with the President’s picture on it. Yet, these pro-lifers supposedly value life. It’s just that they care only for some Americans’ lives, and not others.

The only time we as Americans seem to value the lives of “other” Americans is usually when those others are in uniform, overseas in a theater of action projecting American power. Only then, American lives are far more valuable than the lives of Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, and myriad other humans we’ve slaughtered in the hundreds of thousands over the past sixty-two years. But, at least one American life is more valuable than a hundred non-American humans, right?

Today marks forty-four years since James Earl Ray cold-bloodedly murdered Martin Luther King, Jr. while he stood on a balcony of a Memphis motel. He thought that the lives of poor, misguided and racist White Americans was far more valuable than the life of one of the greatest Americans there ever was or will be. Despite forty-four years of using King’s words as fuel for rhetoric and action on civil rights and human justice, we still haven’t solved the problem of the relative value of an American life, especially when it’s a Black one.


Breakdown: The Messiah Complex At Work, Part II

January 7, 2012

Cosmo, from Nicktoons' Fairly Odd Parents, a reminder of Ken, January 5, 2012. (http://fairlyoddparents.wikia.com).

The saying goes that a lawyer who represents him or herself at trial has a fool as counsel. This is also true of a supervisor who believes that the only ideas worth pursuing are his own, unadulterated ones. Especially one in the midst of a nervous breakdown, who who’d know since the late-1980s that he had bipolar disorder. This was the case of my last days at New Voices in January ’04, as I prepared to move on, and as Ken prepared to flip out (see my “The Messiah Complex At Work, Part I” from November ’11).

The seven weeks between the weird November meeting with Ken and others and his breakdown were tension filled. I worked out a schedule that allowed me to take until the middle of February — three months — to find another position at the Academy for Educational Development or elsewhere. Beyond that, I did my job, and found Ken constantly snooping in my office, monitoring my telephone calls, and double-checking my times in and out of the office in the meantime. It was as bad as it was during my first weeks working for him in December ’00 and January ’01.

I’d long suspected that Ken had some mental illness, either bipolar disorder or paranoid schizophrenia (as I noted in my “Working At AED: Alternate Sources of Fear” post in June ’11). And in the year prior to January ’04, I’d made some of my suspicions known, to superiors like “Driving Miss Daisy” Sandra, my former Center Director Yvonne. I’d even taken two New Voices colleagues out to lunch that summer — a month before the birth of my son — to warn them about the signs I’d seen of Ken become more maniac and paranoid than usual.

But I didn’t realize that Ken’s condition knew no bounds. So it was that on the morning of Wednesday, January 7, that Driving Miss Daisy had called us into an impromptu meeting with Ken. We went into the seventh floor conference room, not knowing why we were meeting. Ken came in last, after I’d spent about five minutes updating Driving Miss Daisy about the preparation status for the New Voices gathering at the World Social Forum in Mumbai.

His face was flush, the color of freshly caught and gutted salmon, and sweat ran through his hair like he’d just run his five-foot-two frame a couple of miles in a sprint. He came in, sat down as I continued the update, then started to cry. Ken said, “Sandra, I’ve got to go,” and then left in a rush. By the time we had adjourned, Ken had left the building.

I wouldn’t see the man again for another five weeks. In the meantime, several AED higher-ups brought me up to speed on what had occurred between the time I changed my son’s diapers and disembarked from the Metro at Du Pont Circle that morning. Ken and Driving Miss Daisy had met with AED’s president and CEO that morning about the status of the project. During that meeting, Ken had gone off on the head honcho, accusing him of sabotaging the project, of sabotaging him as the project leader, of being a corrupt, money-grubbing president. Of course, I found a letter in a printer two days before which summarized some of these

Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, DC December 16, 2008. (http://flickr.com).

ideas, but I’d no idea that Ken had printed it or planned to use it.

The next revelation dropped that Saturday, although I wouldn’t learn of it until I came back to work that Monday, January 12. Ken had left me a message Saturday morning, around 8 am, apologizing for the hell that he had put me through the previous couple of months. Then, as his voice started to crack, Ken said, “I love you, Donald!” I heard a sniffle, and then a click on the message. Within that week, I learned from one colleague in human resources that Ken had checked into the psychiatric ward at Georgetown University Hospital, and from another person that it was Driving Miss Daisy who’d driven him there.

There are any number of lessons that I or anyone can draw from this experience. For me, of all of the jobs I’ve held, this one was the most bittersweet experience, and in retrospect, I probably should’ve said no to it when it was offered to me in November ’00. That everyone with some authority who worked with me or Ken should’ve but didn’t notice the signs of his manic-depressive behavior.

That no matter my integrity or proper professional behavior under the circumstances, that I’d end up the bad guy. After all, my staff went to Mumbai without me — Driving Miss Daisy’s decision — while I went on to hold down the fort and found another position at AED. And don’t tell me race wasn’t involved. A tall mentally stable and heterosexual Black male versus a short, bipolar and semi-in-the-closet White male? Only in this world does the latter keep his position another six years after this and several other breakdowns.

That said, one thing stands out above all else. It’s a sad but important lesson about the difference being true to yourself and lying to yourself, about finding the right balance between life and career.


Down The Rabbit Hole

January 3, 2012

Alice In Wonderland, surrounded by the characters of Wonderland, illustration, by Jessie Wilcox Smith, 1923. In public domain.

Once again, it’s time for the leap year silly season, between the presidential election cycle and the Summer Olympics. Only with a twist. Between the reactionary GOP/TPers, the state of the world in general and over-hyped Mayan predictions, 2012 promises to be a year full of surprises, for better and for worse. Only, as far as I can read a calendar, this year runs on the same day and date lines as 1984. Minus George Orwell’s post-apocalyptic impressions or Van Halen’s first big album (That reminds me — I should download “Panama” from iTunes).

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaks about entitlements during a campaign rally at the Hotel Pattee, Perry, Iowa, January 2, 2012. (Scott Olson/Getty Images).

What has been predictable so far includes Rick “Sanitarium” Santorum’s race-baiting via entitlements, calling on Blacks to not take “other people’s money” yesterday on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. What a dumb, racist ass! Especially since the overwhelming number of Americans on welfare are White. Especially because most poor Blacks still feel the lingering effects of a society built on racial preferences that denied them and previous generations the wealth that helped make America the richest country in the history of the world. Especially since Santorum has tried these tactics before, in Pennsylvania, where he showed how crazy he was six and eighteen years ago (Please Pitt, stop using him in your promotional ads!)

Yes, America’s all Alice in Wonderland again, sliding down the rabbit hole into an election cycle that’s more about style than substance, where the spin cycle’s constantly on and character is only defined in the most sanctimonious of terms. Between San”scrotum,” Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, and Jon Huntsman and their idiotic campaigns, I’d take an ancient Roman approach. Cut each of them on their right butt cheeks, throw them all in a bag with a wild leopard, and drop them in a river full of hippos. Whoever survives should then get to run against President Obama. That would be fairer than the system we have now.


Musical ‘Mates and Matters

December 24, 2011

The "A" Note, February 5, 2008. (Pearson Scott Foresman, via Wikipedia). In public domain.

If someone asked me what was the one thing that me and my classmates had in common during my middle school and high school years in Mount Vernon, New York, it would be a love of and for music. I wouldn’t have been able to draw this rather obvious conclusion five years ago. But, in the course of interviewing folks and writing and rewriting my Boy @ The Window manuscript since ’06, music seems to be the one common denominator that connected us all.

Take the fact that so many of my Class of ’87 classmates found their way into the underground or mainstream music scene over the past twenty-four years. At least one was a producer, a bunch rapped, played, sang, and danced their way into the industry, even if they’re not household names. Others did studio work, and at least two are doing music/sound work for the small and big screen.

These folks are Black, White, Afro-Caribbean and Latino, so, no, race doesn’t seem to be a factor. Was it something that was in the water or in Mount Vernon’s lead water pipes? Not likely. It really couldn’t have been instilled in us by Humanities, or going to Davis, Nichols or Mount Vernon High School, right? The official doctrine of the powers that were would’ve made our favorite music somewhere between Sinatra and Tchaikovsky.

It could be as simple and as complicated as the times we grew up in, the fellow travelers to which we were

Culture Club "Club Sandwich Tour" poster, September 27, 2011. (Wikipedia). Qualifies as fair use under US Copyright laws because of low resolution and subject of blog post.

exposed, the constant noise that was Mount Vernon public schools in the 1970s and 1980s. Living in a city in the early stages of decline, within shouting distance of Manhattan and a short walk to the Bronx. Having the level of Black and Brown diversity that we had, with a decent sized White minority in the school system, may be all that was needed to create the conditions for music to be our one common language.

It wasn’t just in my class, as the classes of ’85 and ’86 turned out the late Heavy D and Al B. Sure. Nor was it just in Mount Vernon’s public schools. There was something about Mount Vernon itself, a painful place for some, a cool and pleasureful one for others, that made music both a code for coolness and an escape from reality.

For my specific groups of Humanities nerds, renaissance folks and generally sharp classmates, though, the tastes ranged and even mingled. For the guidos and guidettes whom I labeled “The Italian Club,” the music was decidedly “White.” From “A” serenading 7S with The Police’s “Roxanne” ala Eddie Murphy, to the frequent blaring of Billy Idol, Bruce Springsteen and Foreigner from turbo-charged Camaros and Mustangs.

The Time promotional poster, circa 1990, July 6, 2006. (Mista Tee, via Wikipedia). Qualifies as fair use under US Copyright laws because of low resolution and subject matter for blog post.

Then the was the obviously cool Black and Afro-Caribbean, with a clique for every occasion, whose music was also obviously “Black.” Teena Marie, pre-”Material Girl” Madonna, Phyllis Hyman, Prince, Luther Vandross, Doug E. Fresh, Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam, Run-DMC, if it was Black and cool, they listened to it, and knew the exact date the new album would hit the stores. They drove around in their Nissan Maximas, Audis and old Cadillacs with this mesh of R&B, early rap and hip-hop, and crossover pop pumping out of their tinted windows.

Of course, that left the rest of us, the few who seemed to like a bit of everything. Crush #1 and Depeche Mode. Brandie Weston and her clique’s love of Boy George and Culture Club. V’s commitment to Billy Joel, at least a decade and a half too young to understand the full meaning of what we’d now call adult contemporary. Not to mention The Police, Sting, The Who, Rolling Stones, Thompson Twins, Duran Duran, ABC, Tears for Fears, a-ha, and so many others. But it didn’t stop there. For we, too, liked Luther, and Billy Idol, and John Coltrane, and Lisa Lisa, and Run.

I don’t know if my musical tastes were the most eclectic of all, or if mine remain so. But I can say this. I ran 4.75 miles yesterday, listening to Genesis’ “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” (album version), Sounds of Blackness’ “Optimistic,” U2′s “Beautiful Day,” Grover Washington Jr’s “Summer Chill,” Stevie Wonder’s “As,” Sting’s “A Thousand Years,” and Enigma’s “Silence Must Be Heard” along the way. It seems that I’ve always had a song in my head and theme music in my heart for every situation and every period of my life. For better and for worse, I have to give Mount Vernon credit for that, if for nothing else.


The Messiah Complex At Work, Part 1

November 12, 2011

Heinrich Himmler, ala Messiah Complex, 1938. (German Federal Archive via Wikipedia).

Today marks eight years since my former immediate supervisor Ken (see my “Working At AED: Alternate Sources of Fear” post from June ’11) forced me into a meeting with the head of HR and his “all-wise” boss Sandra “Driving Miss Daisy” in an effort to strip me of my Assistant Director of New Voices title at the now defunct Academy for Educational Development. All because I did my job while he was out of the office tacking on a couple of extra days after we’d attended the Independent Sector Conference in San Francisco the week before.

But this wasn’t about me or me doing my job as I’d been doing it for three years. No, this was about Ken in the middle of a period of emotional and psychological instability, and about me no longer trying to work around his moments of mania and depression. After all, I had a newborn son to worry about, a job search to keep secret, and a book I was determined to publish. Couple that with a fifteen percent cut in funding from the Ford Foundation for the New Voices program, and there was no way I’d make it through my last months with New Voices without Ken reacting irrationally.

Anglo Corned Beef, November 11, 2011. (cgi.ebay.com).

It didn’t help that Ken suddenly wanted to do a New Voices conference in Mumbai, India as part of the World Social Forum with no significant planning that August, while I was out on maternity leave. It also didn’t help that Yvonne, our center director, chose early retirement in June over being kept into “Driving Miss Daisy’s” box of highly talented and experienced but underutilized managers of color.

Most of all, it didn’t help that I was completely honest, for once, in my assessment of my performance in my annual review that October. I dutifully reported my recent publications in The Washington Post and a semi-scholarly journal, presentations, teaching of graduate courses at George Washington University, and so on. During that meeting, Ken all but told me he was jealous of the kind of year I was having professionally. He even asked me where I wanted to be in five years. “I want to be director of my own project, of something like New Voices,” I said, again being all too honest.

So, during a week in which we had zero babysitter coverage, where I’d taken the week off to take care of my three-month-old son, Ken insisted that I come into the office. All so I could listen to an hour of accusations, insinuations and wild speculations. He accused me of undermining his authority because I relayed State Department travel warnings for Mumbai to New Voices Fellows. He told me how “amusing it was” that I had titled my position Assistant Director, even though that was the title of my position when I applied for it, interviewed for it, and accepted the position three years earlier. And even though he’d been introducing me as his assistant director for three years.

He accused me of sexually harassing a New Voices Fellow and two staff members back in ’01 over two conversations that he had heard about third hand, and not from a staff member. One was about a strange site visit conversation that had nothing to do with anything approaching sexual harassment. The other conversation, it turned out, was about me and a former staff member’s gastrointestinal illnesses, something we had in common. Ken also accused me of wanting to take his job, of believing that I could do his job better than he could. Only on that last part I agreed, with a definitive nod of my head.

So when he asked me to accept having my title as Assistant Director stripped, along with the commensurate duties that went with that title (including supervisory authority), I said, “No, I think it’s time for me to move on from New Voices.” It left Ken in shock. Heck, it left me in shock, thinking about how we’d make it without my income if I couldn’t find another job over the next three months. The HR director and “Driving Miss Daisy,” though, weren’t surprised at all.

The meeting Ken had forced made my secret decision to move on an open one. Either way, it was inevitable. As I’d written in my journal after my annual review with Ken a couple of weeks before the meeting:

Mr. Magoo screen shot (and a serious lack of vision), June 23, 2011. (http://tumeke.blogspot.com).

“The most telling comment that my Director made during our fundraising effort came when I asked about his vision for our project. ‘I don’t know what the project’s vision should be,’ he said. I realized at that moment that everything we had worked for would fail, no matter how sound our ideas. My Director’s vision for the project did not extend beyond his need to feel needed, to feel as if he alone could keep our project – and by extension, himself – alive. I concluded that this was a dangerous position to find myself in professionally, and that it was beyond time to go.”


The Beatdown

November 5, 2011

Ironing out balled up paper, a bullying symbol, November 4, 2011. (Donald Earl Collins)

An anti-bullying video’s been trending in the social media sphere this week, in which a teacher demonstrates to her class the effects of bullying on a student’s psyche. All courtesy of balled up, stomped on and unfolded yet crumpled pieces of paper. It’s a good, though incomplete description, because it doesn’t address the great feeling of superiority that those dispensing the verbal, physical and psychological abuse get from bullying their classmates.

Though I seldom have thought of myself as someone who was bullied, by today’s definition, that’s exactly what happened to me for the better part of five months of seventh grade, from November ’81 through February ’82 and late-May to early June ’82 (see my post “The Legend of Captain Zimbabwe” from May ’09 for much more). I guess I’d been called so many names by so many people in 7S so first few months — and, to be truthful, did the same in response to a fair number of classmates myself — that I didn’t think too much of it as November ’81 began.

About two weeks after my fight with Brandie (see “Adverbs and A-Holes” post from last month), I experienced a serious physical bullying altercation (there were one or two attempts by neighborhood kids while I went to Nathan Hale and Holmes Elementary, and a couple of attempts in high school). The best way to describe it is that I got jumped and then beat-down after the end of the school day on the first Friday in November ’81.

It wasn’t a random jumping or beat-down, and not one that involved Davis’ Black or Latino students, who were always described to us super-nerds as “dangerous.” No, the perps in this case were from what I euphemistically called the “Italian Club,” a full two years before we had an official Italian Club in high school. They’d been on me in 7S homeroom and in Italian class with nearly constant verbal abuse for the two weeks or so since my scuffle with Brandie. Apparently, my decision to ignore them didn’t work well enough.

The leader of this pack of uncouth Italian or White working-class preteen Humanities boys was “A,” who presented himself as between John Travolta’s character on Welcome Back, Kotter and Arthur Fonzerelli from Happy Days. A’s favorite move those Humanities middle school years was to walk into our homeroom and belt out The Police’s “Roxanne” refrain, as if he were Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours. The way his band of Italian or Italian-esque brothers hung around him, you would’ve thought he was a rock star, someone like his fave, Mr. “White Wedding” himself, Billy Idol.

A Christmas Story (1982) screen shot of bunny suit kid, December 11, 2009. (http://myhealthypassion.wordpress.com). Qualifies as fair use under US copyright laws, between low resolution, cropping, and intent of use.

Led by A, about ten 7S classmates attacked me after school as I was on my way out the school’s side door closest to the Humanities wing to walk home. They grabbed, punched, and kicked me, and called me everything but a child of God. A, of course, wasn’t actually involved in any of the dirty work of beating on me. Like a about half a dozen other 7S classmates, A watched as he directed his gang.

That was my third A Christmas Story moment. Except I’d been better off wearing the pink bunny suit over my kufi! Bullying is a funny thing, even when you’re one being bullied.

But unlike the piece of trampled, stomped, balled up paper, I wasn’t scarred in the sense that my self-esteem was shattered. Far from it, my self-absorption and delusions of academic grandeur shielded me, made it possible for me to iron out most of the wrinkles in my psyche from being jumped that day. It took my grades, a crush, and events that played out at home, at 616, to shatter my childhood.

Of course, being called a “dumb ass” as if it were my nickname, or “Captain Zimbabwe,” as a proxy for “Negro” or the N-word, wasn’t exactly besides the point. Nor was the idea that a bunch of White kids could decide that they could gang up on me essentially because I was an enigma to them. Like me being weird, uncool and smart was too much for their pubervescent heads to handle.

The best revenge, though, was going through puberty myself, to find myself growing ten inches in twenty months, between March ’82 and December ’83. That, and taking care of my body, mind and spirit over the past thirty years. Not that I have a dart board of my tormentors or anything, but I think it would be hilarious if any of them attempted to bully the 225-pound me today. Of course, I’d probably laugh so hard that they’d get a couple of licks in, at least before my sense of righteous rage would kick in.

The moral here, I guess, is to have a sense of how to deal with bullying if and when it does occur, to not shrug it off as “boys just being boys” or, for that matter, “cliquish girls being cliquish girls.” By middle school, though, it’s not just about reporting it to teachers or parents. It’s about other students stepping in, and students the subject of bullies’ discontent defending themselves. And that is what I’m instilling in my son. Of course, I’ll step in when necessary, too.

Flexing muscles, as in too bad I didn't have these 30 years ago, November 4, 2011 (Donald Earl Collins).


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