26 September 2007

Didn't anyone out there GO to High School??

I know I am a bit late to weigh in on the Jena Six story. But I forge on, better late than never, that's me.

I have only one point to make - doesn't anyone who has reported on or commented on this story remember high school?

So much has been made of this "white tree" thing...

At my school, we had the jock table, the cheerleader table, the ASB table, the band geek area, the drama people bench, the "loadie" circle...all inviolate areas for each group. None of it was overtly racist or classist, but you just KNEW not to go where you didn't belong. If you went there, nothing good was going to come of it.

My group was the smart/funny/weird kids who liked movie and comics. We didn't define it that way but looking back on it, that was true. You had to have all four of those qualifications to belong, or at least be strong on 3 out of 4.

(Oddly enough, we called ourselves the Jewish Liberation Army, the JLA. We were NOT Jewish and we went to a school where Jews were few and far between. We just thought the Christians at our school were so annoying that we wanted to do something to drive them nuts. So we became promoters and cheerleaders for All Things Jewish. I remember standing and cheering in history class when our teacher did the lesson on Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. Kids are weird, that's my only excuse.)

The JLA hung out BEHIND McDonalds at lunch. We sat out back on the curb by the trash because we just didn't feel like fighting the more popular kids for tables inside and anyway, the fresh air, the big fat seagulls, and the proximity to the restrooms suited us. Or at least that's what we claimed at the time.

High school is ALL about finding your people, your peer group, the place where you slot yourself and pretty much stay there for the rest of your life, unless something miraculous happens. I'll bet many of the ASB people are still politically active and that the surfers are still surfing.

So reading about Jena having a tree where only white kids sat made me think that was actually kind of a tepid distinction. I am just surprised that it wasn't the tree for "white kids who also belong to the Volleyball team" or something more specific. Because in high school, the cliques are sliced and diced a lot finer than just "white" and "black" no matter where you are.

People WANT to separate themselves from each other, and they do, often in ways that are cruel and violent. I don't know if that is racism or if that is just humanity.

What was your clique?

19 comments:

Assertagirl said...

Yearbook and band nerds, man. And a few high school musical participants, too.

URBAN PEDESTRIAN said...

Here's the thing -- we're living in a hypersensitive world where anyone can make a big stink about being discriminated against or harassed or threatened by someone and everyone jumps all over it. Kids aren't allowed to find their own way socially anymore. They can't argue with anyone, laugh at anyone, avoid anyone, exclude anyone or its called racism or bullying or some other buzzword of the day. You're absolutely right about how high school works -- kids gravitate together because of what they have in common and that becomes your "posse". These are the people who, for 4 years, you share all your confidences with, you trust most in the world, you socialize with, etc.. You have "a spot" on or near school property where you all know you're going to meet up. It's normal. It's been that way forever. It still is that way. And this whole issue is nuts.

Average Jane said...

I was a gifted-class nerd without very many friends. I usually ended up having lunch with the equally shunned stoner kids, even though I was a complete goody two-shoes who never did drugs.

Hilly said...

"Second String", as I now call it. Not popular enough to be on top of the HS Food Chain but not entirely unpopular either...mixed interests in drama, yearbook, sports, student government. Most people I knew were smart...

super des said...

2 groups / locales come to mind. There was "the wall" where all the stoners hung out, and the band table. Although I could've been with either of these groups (I wasn't in band per se but I was in drama so they accepted me as one of their own) I hung with the punk rockers, who incidentally annexed the band table for themselves.

I'm sure there were other, more racially charged places, but all of my groups were mixed. They still stuck to their places though. But you make a pretty good point.

Kizz said...

Band/drama kids with academic overachievement issues. Same table every day morning and noon for four years. How would HS work without that? How would you plan your route and timing into the cafeteria if you didn't know exactly where Bobby Hathaway (or whoever) was going to be sitting so you could give him the opportunity to admire your rocking new Cyndi Lauper look?

Er, hypothetically.

jessica said...

OMG averagejane! That was me too! I was a "gifted" student who hated and was hated by her rich, obnoxious classmates, so I hung out with the burnouts - even though I didn't party at all. Too funny!

I exacted my revenge on all those snots this past November by showing up to my 20th reunion looking like 25 and not 40. Ha!

Mignon said...

The exchange students were my peeps. That's how well I fit in with my Apple Pie American peers.

emily said...

Those thoughts have been swirling around unarticulated in my head since this whole Jena 6 thing hit the airwaves, but I hadn't the energy to think it out like you did FOR ME! Thanks for hitting the nail on the head!
I was a lot like Avg. Jane and Jessica. It always irked me that the kids who supposedly represented "the normal" were the most closed-minded and exclusive. The alternative crowd had more reason to exclude those boring folks!

claire said...

i hung out with the stoners. we always met 'at the gate' - the entrance to the school where you were allowed to smoke. I wasn't a stoner, myself, but always had a great time hanging out with them.
Oh, and on friday nights, we hung out BEHIND the 7-11. :)

BetteJo said...

Hmm. I guess I went in and out of different groups. Mostly hung out with the 'freaks' out back by the 'smokehouse' which was a gardening shed really. Yeah, kids definitely pick their places - I agree there shouldn't be bullying - but cliques? Groups? Crowds? It's the nature of high school, hell - it's the nature of growing up! Finding out where you fit it - figuring out who you want to be and who you are.
SO not a big deal.

URBAN PEDESTRIAN said...

Interesting how many of you/us hung out with the stoner kids, yet claim not to have been one of them...

ByJane said...

We had a club, the GEMS. Which stood for Generosity, Equality, Maturity. Three qualities none of us possessed.

Madame Queen said...

I was a charter member of the nerd herd and yes, we had our own table.

However, I don't really think the issue with the Jena thing is the fact that some black kids hung out where the white kids hung out. It was that the white kids hung NOOSES in the tree afterward, which is NOT acceptable in my book, no matter where you live or what group you belong to. Yes, we live in an overly PC and overly sensitive society, BUT this goes beyond being too sensitive in my book. Sorry if I got too serious with this, but that's my two cents.

Count Mockula said...

I went the same way as Madame Queen, but now she's said it, I feel better.

I hung with the "stage people," who hung out on the... yeah, the stage. It was a mix of drama/art/punk kids and the freaky geniuses.

SUEB0B said...

Madame Queen & Count - part of what I was trying to say was that we tend to slap the racism label on everything, when people are just cruel to each other in so many ways, especially when we are young. It really doesn't matter what makes people "other," as long as we have an "other" to hate.

mar said...

i graduated with 42 people in my class so it was hard to make too many distinctions clique-wise. band/choir kids & non-band because you had one english/science/history class for each group. the non-band geeks were the stoners/underachievers, though. i did hang out with them on occasion.

mothergoosemouse said...

You reminded me of our high school's smoking area. Until the state banned smoking on any school campus, we had a designated area in which to smoke - but even that was subdivided. Punk rockers near the East Unit door, hoods near the South Unit door.

I can't even really define myself as being part of a particular clique. I was in the Honors classes (but was a bit of a slacker), on the drill team (but was a mediocre dancer), and spent lunch and weekends with punk rockers (some of whom were also in my classes and/or on the drill team). Hopefully I was more inclusive than exclusive, at least most of the time.

Staci Schoff said...

I didn't really have a clique.

I was on the tennis team, so some of my friends were athletes. I was a good student, but not an honor student, but my best friend was an honor student. I had friends who were "pommies" even though I thought being a "pommie" was the stupidest thing ever. And though I was a good student and an athlete by day, I had a lot of bad bad friends with whom I did a lot of bad bad things by night.

I like to think I was already my own girl -- but at the time it felt more like just being a geek and a misfit!

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