To the Young Men who Watched and Said Nothing

From the cheap nfl jerseys Richmond Peace March, November 7, 2009. Photo credit: Bethanie Hines

I went to the Peace March this part Saturday that was organized in response to the recent gang-rape at Richmond High School. It was a healing event for a lot of folks. Despite the tragedy that brought us together, the spirit of love and solidarity was strong. Dennis college Kim gave one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard at a rally. Youth Speaks had a contingent out to support, and I felt good about our presence.

But something strange happened as well. First once, then twice, and finally almost a dozen times, I was approached by women in the march who said to me, “Thanks for being here.” Almost like it was a surprise that I, a man, was there to take a stand against violence towards women.

There were a decent number of men at the march, but I realized that, amongst many other things, we really do need men speaking to other men about this issue. Despite the media hype, the Richmond High incident unfortunately is far from isolated. This shit happens all the time – and not just in Richmond. It does no good to further criminalize East Bay youth. The question is: how can we stop sexual violence against women EVERYWHERE? As someone who’s had the privilege of working with some More brilliant, amazing students (young men & women) at Richmond energy High, and across the Bay, I wanted to talk directly to the folks who I think could make the change we need.

To the Young Men who Watched and Said Nothing

i call you young men,
not boys.
but i don’t mean that
as a compliment.

boys play freeze tag
and three-on-three.
young men watch
a mob assaulting their classmate
and go home to watch MTV.

i don’t know your names,
but you knew hers.
it wasn’t Jane Doe.

i know this shit
happens everyday.
you heard what the football team
did to that girl in El Cerrito.
you might have been pushed
against a wall yourself once.
pants pressed to your ankles,
forced to turn around and take it
like a No?l man.

you know what rape is.

you should have been inside at the dance.
getting your off-beat grind on
or standing awkwardly in the corner
like teenage boys cheap mlb jerseys are supposed to.

but you Benefit went outside, to the courtyard.
and you saw what they were doing
to her.

you said nothing.

you watched them:
punch, scratch, choke, violate her
for one hundred and twenty seven minutes.

you said nothing.

you left to go to the bathroom,
came back, and they were
still at it.

you said…

you were scared
that you’d get jumped.
get called a snitch, a bitch, a punk
who’s as white as his tall tee.

but A what colors did you see that night in Richmond?
do you remember the reds of her wholesale jerseys knuckles? cheap jerseys the blues in her eyes?
the blacks of her throat as she screamed for Someone, Anyone?

i am not perfect. not even
in the same area code as perfection.
i am a young man myself, after all.

i have never hit a woman, but that
doesn’t mean i have never hurt one.

i was raised by my mom,
grandmom, aunt, and my little sister-cousin.
she is 16 cheap nfl jerseys now. the same age
as the girl you saw in that courtyard.
who do you think i thought of when i heard?
can you look your own sisters in the eye?

and i was raised by my father.
no saint either, but he was with me
at my Bar Mitzvah, the day
that i became a man.
my father is a good man. he loves me.

and i still love you.
like a brother, who’s fucked up
in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
like a student, who’s brilliant
but got caught up in some horribly stupid shit.
like a young man,
who isn’t a boy
no more.

From the Richmond Peace March, November 7, 2009. Photo credit: Bethanie Hines