Rushed Judgment This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
   A strong white hand rose high over the heads of the other students. Its owner was a tall, blond, blue-eyed boy sitting in the front of the class who answered the teacher's question with ease, in a confident manner that made his intelligence evident.

I knew this student well. I sat next to him in almost every class, and considered him a good friend. An athlete and an excellent student, he played in the band and had a great sense of humor. Joe was the perfect kid with a perfect life: two loving parents, a nice house, and a weekend job.

Today, we had a new student, Reggie, from Georgia. He was in our English and our U.S. History classes. In history class, he sat right behind me and we talked about where he used to live. He told me how the dirt there is red instead of brown because it's made of red clay. Reggie definitely had a sense of humor! He had me laughing so hard that my sides ached.

To my surprise, Joe must have been listening when Reggie was telling me about the Georgia red clay and suddenly he accused Reggie of lying.

"I don't believe that for a minute! You're making it up," he said abruptly.

"Joe, what are you talking about? What reason would Reggie have to lie about the color of dirt?" I asked.

At just that moment, Mr. Woodcock, our teacher, walked by and asked us what we were talking about. Reggie told him about the Georgia red clay and Mr. Woodcock called the class's attention.

"Class," he said, "our new student just brought up a very interesting fact about the South. The dirt down there is red from clay deposits in the land called Georgia red clay. When it rains, the water that runs off the land sometimes appears red. The legend is that this red liquid is the blood and tears of the slaves that were held there."

The bell rang and we all shuffled out the door to go to lunch. Joe and I walked together, but didn't do much talking. After we got our lunches, we went to find seats. I saw Reggie sitting alone at the end of a table with plenty of empty seats around him.

"Why don't we sit with Reggie?" I asked Joe.

"Are you kidding? I don't think so," he laughed and continued walking.

We took our seats at a table with some of Joe's friends who play basketball. I couldn't figure out what his problem was. He was acting so strangely. This rude behavior wasn't like him at all.

"Hey guys, we've got this new kid in our class who's a total loser. Wait until you see him!" Joe announced in a loud voice to the group.

I looked at him in amazement! How could he say that when he didn't even know Reggie. I waited until the rest of the guys went outside and then decided that Joe had gone too far.

"O.K., Joe, what is your problem? I can't believe you said that about Reggie when you don't even know him."

"My problem!?" he exclaimed. "What about you? How can you be so nice to him. You talked to him during class and everyone saw you. Haven't you noticed he's black!"

"You've got to be kidding me, right? You can't actually be that prejudiced to judge someone by the color of his skin!" As I said these words, my emotions ran wild. I felt my face burning and my hands were beginning to shake.

I watched Joe as he got up and went outside with his friends, leaving me alone at the table. I didn't see Joe for the rest of the day and I had a lot of time to think.

When I got home, I tried to make sense of the events, but I couldn't: it didn't make sense. Maybe Joe was just ignorant, but he was the smartest guy I knew. Maybe he was afraid, but of what? Finally, I arrived at a painful conclusion. Being intelligent doesn't mean being sophisticated, or wise, or strong enough to initiate change.

I learned a lot today.

About the world.

About people.

About life. n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback