Blog Your Blessings: S.E. Hinton
The story: A young African American girl in a hick town in Western Oklahoma in the 1960s barely escapes three white men who taunt her by blocking her only exit from a drugstore where she has just bought a package of cigarettes. The scene is familiar to the drugstore owner, who knows this gang of white men and bails out the back of the store, leaving this girl on her own. Outside the store, another young white guy gets her to climb into his car, and he takes her back to her black neighborhood in this segregated, bigoted world. This young man does her no harm but tries to soothe her.
Still, when she gets home and a black man outside the car asks her what she wants him and the other black men to do to him, she replies, "Kill the white bastard."
Why did she say this about the guy who just helped her out? I asked my class of seventh graders.
"I don't know, but that would be the last time I'd do anything nice!" one kid--a boy--piped up.
Write it down. Write down why you think she said that about the kid who tried to be nice.
"I don't know, miss. I don't know. I need help." That request came from an African American girl who hadn't paid much attention to S.E. Hinton's That Was Then, This is Now until we got to this part of chapter 2.
My bet was she did know. My bet was that she needed permission to say it.
One-on-one: How would you feel about the next white guy who came along after you got bullied--and could have been attacked--but a bunch of white thugs?
"I would hate him."
They'd all look alike because you'd still be pretty upset, right? Do you think that was the first time she was hassled like that?
"But he tried to help," she said.
Cool. You see it from both sides.
I won the bet.
That was last week. This week, all that child wanted to do was read out loud. And she did--for page. Right after she asked if she could sit in the front of the room. Thank you, S.E. Hinton.