Snapshots Of Blackness


Sonia Pai, senior at Cherry Creek High School in Greenwood Village, adjacent to Littleton: Mostly I would hear and use these names as a freshman—there are preppies and there are skaters, and if you’re a preppie that meant like you could not ever buy anything that wasn’t from Gap or Abercrombie and you ate in a different cafeteria. And then the other group was the skaters, named because some of them—maybe one out of hundreds of them—actually skateboarded. My friends were skaters even though they didn’t know how to skateboard. Going to middle school we were all preppies and all of a sudden we just decided… going to high school we just decided, “Yes, maybe we’ll be skaters.” And with that came this whole idea that you don’t care about the school and that it’s cool to do drugs.

You had to go off campus to smoke, and a lot of people would come back in a dazed state and get hit by cars, crossing the street, so [the school] made two designated smoking areas. And most people would just smoke cigarettes, and there would be a security guard, and a few people would do drugs, but that was really cool, to go there! …and stand there! …and know someone who was smoking! Not all of my friends thought that was cool, but some of them would go there and stand around just so that they could be associated with those people. They thought that it was time to rebel, and that we should do this. So I stopped being friends with them. And so freshman year is horrible.

We ate in this cafeteria that’s called I.C. And that was the skater cafeteria. And they’re also called stoners. And that cafeteria was in the location where you need to pass through to get to other places in the school, but our campus is such that you can get anywhere by walking outside as well as inside. And people would just build up all this hostility saying that like, “Oh, people that eat in West”—which are the preppies—”would never walk through here. They always walk outside, even if it’s snowing, because they don’t like how it smells in here.” Then I remember one of my friends, who happened to be black, went into West because she had to walk there for some school group, and she’s like, “Everyone was like staring at me, I just know they were laughing at me…”

There were the theater people, they were a group to themselves, very melodramatic, then the band people, which just means you’re small and a nerd—those people were never considered to have much personality. And the math and science people, which I later became… There’s the jocks, also called the meatheads. All their dads are good old boys and they support the NRA. All Republicans.

You can be walking through the cafeteria, and people will just be like, “Nice view,” all kinds of harassment, and I always see people slapped on the ass. And even vulgar things—pinching people’s breasts isn’t thought of as weird, it happened in my gym class, a freshman boy to a freshman girl, he didn’t think it was weird. He was really upset that the teacher said something to him.

A lot of verbal pressure and physical abuse goes on. A lot of girls at our school are anorexic; they have a lot of emotional instabilities, and that makes them insecure and hostile to people that are different, even though they don’t voice it. But they would never be seen with someone different.

The trench-coat people I wondered about for a really long time. I’ve always wondered, why the trench coat? What do they believe in? One of the kids who wears it, he was in my photography class and we did this exhibit and we had to do a photography statement—most of the class didn’t know what to write. “I don’t have a statement. I just make pictures.” And the rest of us were like, “I like to capture beauty and light.” And that’s what I wrote: “I like light.” But then he wrote something totally insane and all the rest of us were like, “Woah!” He was like, “The mind sees in shades of blue and brown, and brown is the color of death and morbidity, that’s why I try to encompass myself and envelop myself in it and develop my mind in it.” He was more creative than the rest of us by far; and we had this project where we could video things and then we would take the video and make it into photographs. And most of us did just one picture; mine was a picture of a bug. But then his, he had 20 pictures, some of them were him holding a shotgun, a rifle, then there were skeletons and these were in the dark and illuminated with a flashlight, and then there was a TV screen that said, “Dumb,” and then just snapshots of black, blackness, and they were arranged in this collage… it was really really strange and all of us were scared of him. I don’t know if he still wears a trench coat. I know there was one kid who wore the trench coat, and the day after the shooting happened he didn’t, and he felt kind of ashamed to have worn it and to hear people think that he’s associated with this group when he’s not.

There’s a lot of trench-coat people that also double as thespians and artists and are in advanced placement classes. And they’re not losers. I think most people think thespians means something it doesn’t really mean. It sounds like lesbian, and maybe it really is. It’s not that scandalous to associate with them; at least I don’t feel it.

Shoshanna Hamilton, student at Newton Middle School in Littleton [on how she feels walking down the halls of her school since the Columbine shootings]: It feels a lot different because I’m noticing a lot more people, that they’re there. I’m just paying a lot more attention now to what’s happening around the school. And around my friend, talking to my friend, we’d be like normal girls talking about stuff, but now I’m talking and looking around and noticing more things.

Frank Kogan: Is that because you’re caring more about other people or because you’re scared more of the other people?

S.H.: It’s kind of both.