By Anna Merlan
By Albert Samaha
By Tessa Stuart
By Anna Merlan
By Roy Edroso
By Carolyn Hughes
By Chuck Strouse
By Albert Samaha
Jane Dark's article ''Suffer the (White, Middle-Class) Children," which appeared in the June 1 Voice, generated an unusual amount of mail. Following is a sampling of letters received and Dark's response.
Through a Class Darkly
One glaring error stands out in Jane Dark's evaluation of the situation at Columbine High School. We're talking about kids, not men.
Whatever sense of political identity the average 15-year-old may have is coincidental to the fact that teenagers are hormone-fraught, emotion-filled individuals. Take your run-of-the-mill teen angst and adolescent worries and add constant ridicule and rejection by the socially elite plus persecution by school administrators.
If Ms. Dark is not aware that a great many students put up with unconscionable abuse by their peers and administrators, then her writing on this subject is hardly relevant.
I believe that the school environment of oppression contributes to later oppressive behavior in much the same way that children abused in other ways often go on to lead abusive lives. Our schools teach that might makes right. They are filled with hypocrisy, and our children aren't immune to that. If we don't like how people behave when they grow up, we must change the lessons we teach them when they are young, including the lessons we teach by example, and the ones we teach by our indifference.
John R. Johns II
You've Got Male
Suddenly, it seems that if you're a geek, you're a member in good standing of the white male power elite. Someone at the White Male Power Elite Coordinating Center screwed up and forgot to send me my membership card and jackboots. According to Jane Dark, you can't suffer if you're white. What's next you can't be poor if you're a Jew?
San Diego, California
I'm a white female. I was beaten up with depressing regularity by classmates who considered me an outsider. By "beaten up," I mean jumped by a group, knocked to the floor, head pounded on the ground (or the brick, or the concrete), upper body pummeled, and sometimes kicked till I was sick and dizzy and could barely get back up when they finished.
The University of Michigan has been surveying 12th graders since 1976, asking them if they have been deliberately injured at school; 15 to 20 percent have consistently responded that they have been deliberately injured; 10 to 14 percent of girls have responded that they have been deliberately injured.
It is clear from my experience and from available statistics that the problem is not uniquely a male one.
Anyone identifiable as different from mainstream commercial culture is oppressed by certain elements of it. Instead of naming "identity groups" (at least one of which virtually anyone could qualify for), we should identify oppressors as entities and institutions (not as "white guys").
Snub Knows Bullets
Those kids in Littleton became what they were and did what they did because nobody thought they mattered or took them seriously. No wonder they became racists, with people like Jane Dark telling them that if you're white you're the Man and nobody gives a fuck about you. All these kids are going to keep thinking, Nobody cares about us, so we'll make them care, BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!
Jane Dark replies: Amazing how desperate the respondents are to believe I said "shut up and take it." Do I think that everybody should have the right to struggle against abuse? Of course as anyone who read the piece with care would discover. Do I think that a social class (and itis an identifiable class, despite vacant homilies about individuality) with the greatest access to food and shelter, goods, services, and medical care in the Western world has a lesser claim to the status of the oppressed? Damn straight. What I regret was the lack of space to discuss the other issues. I don't think this is a story about high school hell as much as it's about the fucked-up roles offered boys: impotent geek to hyper-butch brutalizer. Harris and Klebold just leapt from one end of the spectrum to the far limit of the other.
Re Magie Dominic's "No One Decides To Be Destitute" [June 1]: Lots of people are two paychecks away from homelessness. Although The Village Voice's coverage of New York's needy is admirable, more exposure of the systematic discouragement and embarrassment of the welfare/food stamp applicant,which was so well- illustrated in Ms. Dominic's letter to your paper, is needed. Having had a decent banking career that derailed, resulting in the need for public assistance, I sympathize with Magie's plight. When the pendulum swings from have to have not, it is rough.
Magie Dominic, in "No One Decides To Be Destitute," tells it accurately. My mom broke her hip when she was 83. Thank God she had family nearby. I hate to think what would have happened otherwise. She had money, but she wouldn't have been able to use it for her benefit while she was recovering from her injuries. The whole experience terrified me. My mom had me to look after her, but what happens to the elderly who have no advocates?