Fight the power!

When I was in 7th grade, controversy erupted at a nearby school. Some girls were being harassed by racist students who labeled them as "wiggers" because they wore baggy pants and braided their hair, and school officials were siding with the racists and saying that they weren't allowed to braid their hair. The ordeal made the news, and the girls even went on Montel to talk about what had happened. My math teacher, whose daughter went to the school in question, weighed in on the issue, seemingly siding with the racists.

"They went on TV and said they burnt a cross! That cross was on paper!" she ranted.

Years later, a neighbor would tell me that she was good friends with one of the "wigger" girls, and had witnessed things like a guy punching her in the face at school with no repercussions. At the time, however, all of my knowledge of what was going on came through the media and third-hand gossip. Regardless, it seemed clear to me that no matter what the circumstances were, even if the girls were awful bitches, there was no excuse for what was happening to them. I was entirely on their side. I signed a completely useless petition to "allow hair braiding in school," but I wanted to do something else to show my solidarity for the oppressed rural white girls. I let a couple of girls braid my hair. It was a sloppy job, but I was proud to stick it to The Man in such a manner, and chicks seemed to dig it.

On the day I braided my hair, I was sitting in computer class staring at the screen when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the computer teacher, a heavy set man whose glasses were sunk deep into his face and who always gave off a strong odor of rancid sweat.

"Have you been to the office yet?"

"No," I said, "Why?"

"You know why. Go to the office."

I got up and began walking out of class. When I got near the door, I turned around and raised my fist in the air.

"Fight the power!" I said, half-shouting.

"Hey!" called the teacher, but I had already turned and walked out the door. He chased me into the hallway and confronted me.

"What did you say?" he asked.

"Fight the power."

"Do your parents teach you stuff like that?"

"No," I said.

He shook his head and told me again to go to the office. On the way there, I passed the principal, who gave me a funny look and kept walking.

"Mr. Buxton told me to come to the office," I said to the desk lady when I got to the office.


"Because of my hair," I told her.

"Oh, have a seat."

I sat and waited for a while, and then the principal came in. He called me into his private office.

"What did you say when you were leaving Mr. Buxton's class?" he asked me.

"Fight the power."

"Well, that's the problem," he said, "If you hadn't have said that, I would let you keep your braids, but since you said that, you have to take them out."

I didn't believe him at the time, and I still don't. He wouldn't have let me keep the braids regardless of the circumstances, but my call to arms had provided him with a convenient excuse.

I took my braids out and went back to class.

I ended up going to that school the next year, and staying there until I graduated. During my stay, I got to experience the rampant racism first hand. I got called every racial slur imaginable, except for the applicable ones. I thought it was because the racists didn't want to make fun of my white half by calling me a honkey, and flip is too obscure of a term, but they called my Mexican friend a "sand nigger," so it was probably for another reason: racists are idiots. I also learned that the loud racists, the in-your-face "White power!" shouting kind, are also just complete assholes in general.

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