Jett Takes on the Man

In this excerpt Jett and her dad have dinner together as she tells him about how she and her friends challenged a guest speaker at her class that came to speak making some surprisingly racist claims about the the Civil War and Revisionist History.  The night before, she and her friends got together and printed out all of their research about the Civil War, the Constitution and segregation so they could refute what they heard the speaker was going to talk about.  Jett tells her dad how it went in class and they have a heart to heart about the importance, and the risks,  of challenging the status quo and standing up to injustice.  It’s an important moment that will affect how Jett views the challenges she will face in the future.

 

They got to the front of the line, picked up their food, and went to a table and sat down. Jett ordered a salad and a cup of yogurt and some fruit on the side. Her dad ordered a pastrami sandwich with Thousand Island dressing and cole slaw.
When they got to the table, he looked at her and asked, “So, how did that thing in school go today?”
“Oh my gosh dad, it was weird. This guy came in. An attorney. Said he knows you. He knew I was your daughter. I don’t think he likes you, or me either by the way, I’ll explain later. Anyway, he did this whole thing on slavery, and the reasons for the Civil War and then segregation that was supposed to make the South look like the good guys and the North the bad guys. It was so racist it made me want to vomit. He had this thing where he was saying that slaves actually had it good. He called slavery ‘alternatively compensated labor’ or something really stupid like that. He tried to make the case that segregation and slavery would somehow work for everyone if it was done right and done fairly. It was awful. He made no sense, yet I know lots of people really believe what he says. He knew we had a rebuttal because he saw our powerpoint that we handed out before class, so he was ready. Said we could go ahead and state our case so he can tell us how we’re wrong.
Then, it was awesome. We started presenting our research and talked about all the stuff we talked about last night when we were working on it. We matched him point for point, refuting everything with documented research. He was speechless. Then he got frustrated and started insulting us. That’s when he said he knew you from court. He said that I was just like you because, as he said, I ‘don’t know when to keep my mouth shut,’”
“I see that as a compliment,” her dad said.
“I know!! That’s exactly what I said, that my dad would take that as a compliment. Anyway, he then tried to convince us that black people are inferior intellectually and superior in terms of athletics and entertainment, so that’s what black people should do. He said Asians were good at math so they should be engineers and such but white men are smarter so they should be leaders and white women, like all women, he said, are really just good nurturers. It was so racist and misogynistic. We had a discussion about that and he said diversity doesn’t work and it was bad for me because I don’t really belong anywhere because I’m biracial. He tried to use bullying in school to make his point, saying that there was never a bullying problem before I came along and the bullying is just a symptom of what is wrong with diversity. Then the WHOLE CLASS turned against him and started talking about how there’s always been bullying and it’s just a small group of guys that bully literally everyone else, not just me. I said it’s because they are racist jerks, not because of any societal thing. Then the whole class took my side and talked about how I belong with them because I’m their friend and we hang out together. Melinda, who had been with me making points all along even googled a book he cited and found the statistical shortcomings of the book and refuted his use of that book as proof of what he was saying. Then he just got mad and started griping at all of us, especially me. He said it was all my fault that everyone has these ‘liberal’ ideas now. That’s when our teacher stepped in and told him that we’ve been nothing respectful to him while he has very rude to us and told him to leave the classroom. So he said that he was going to meet with the Superintendent about this. Then he left. It was crazy.”
“Okay. Well, we have a meeting with the Superintendent at 3:00pm Monday. You, me, that guy, Mr Hitchens, and Melinda and her parents, along with that Greg kid that was over and his parents too.”
Jett looked defeated all of a sudden, “oh,” she simply said, “ I guess we’re in trouble now?”
“Don’t worry about it kid. You did good. I’m proud of you. Every act of civil disobedience, no matter how well intentioned and how dignified in its execution, has a consequence. Blowback, it’s called. We’ll manage it. Ashley already spoke to Melinda’s mom. She understands, and she feels you kids did the right thing too. We can invite Diana, if necessary. She’s chomping at the bit to get involved. Especially since she has generally destroyed that attorney in court many times. That’s why he hates me. He has tried to break me down on the stand more than once and it just backfires on him each time. Now you broke him down in the classroom. I guess he just feels our family is out to get him or something.”
“It would help if he wasn’t such a racist,” Jett said.
“Yea. It would. But people are what they are. He probably doesn’t think he is a racist. He longs for a status quo that’s been disappearing for decades. Now his generation is trying one last time to make a huge, coordinated push to bring it back; and they are having some success because they’ve focused on the areas where they’ll get the least resistance. Creating that school district/zone, having this guy going to those classes. But then he runs into you, the daughter of someone he sees as a nemesis, and you unite at least one class and they call him out, publicly. He’s not mad at you. He’s mad at what you represent. You represent a future that he fears. A future in which he doesn’t get to dictate what people say and think; a future in which people know he’s wrong. And he knows he’s wrong, but wrong is all he’s ever known how to be, so he can’t change.
“Jett, you’re gonna find that people fear two things: Change and not fitting in. You are change. And they fear you because you won’t conform to fit in. And you shouldn’t. You should be yourself and keep doing what you’re doing. Because that’s way people will accept change. Your friends see it. It’s always the kids that see it first, because they have fresh eyes, that aren’t clouded by the stupidity of bigotry and fear. They’re changing. Even Principle Preston is changing. Your teachers have always seen it. But a lot of people will cling to a status quo even if they don’t like it. And they will conform to something they don’t like if it seems like everyone else is doing it. These guys are using that to change the world back to a status quo they were comfortable with; where they had the privilege and all the advantages, and everyone just quietly accepted it. You are what’s standing in the way of that. Sure, you’re just a kid. A girl in school. But you represent something greater. You’re proof that the bad guys are wrong, and they always have been. You force them to confront that. Just by being yourself. I didn’t plan for that. I’d rather you not have to deal with that, but I’m not going to let you deny it or succumb to it either. You are in the situation you are in and I’m proud of how you’re handling it.”
Jett smiled and a tear ran down her cheek and then put her head down. She picked at her salad and looked up at her dad again. “Thanks dad. But how do I do it?”
“Just keep being yourself. That’s all you have to do. It’s all you’ve ever had to do. You’re smart, you’re strong and you have a good heart. That’s what’s always guided you. Just listen to yourself. And if you get stuck and don’t know what to do, we’re always here for you. Me, Ashley, Diana. We want to make the world a better place too. We’ve seen how bad it can be, but with you, we see how good it can be too. In that way you’ve kind of rescued us from being jaded and cynical about everything.”
Jett teared up again. “I didn’t think I was that important. I’m just a girl,” she said.

“You’re more important to us than you’ll ever truly understand. We’re family and you’re the kid. Everything I do, I think about you and your future and what it means. Ashley too.”
“Ok. You’re being all sentimental. Ashley said you used to be a tough guy. What happened?”
“You kid. You happened,” he said, smiling at his daughter, “and Monday we’re going to walk in there with our heads up and we’re going to stand our ground. We’re going to be polite and respectful but we’re going to be clear that we don’t get pushed around by some two-bit retired attorney who passed his prime decades ago and is now reduced to peddling half rate bogus propaganda to a bunch of high school kids. Ok?”

“OK. Thanks dad. I’m worried about this meeting though.”
“I understand. But try not to worry. We’ll get through it together. We always do.”

Ashley Garcia – A Jett Story

This is another story from the “Jett universe.”  It’s a  short story from the perspective of the character of “Ashley Garcia,” who plays a huge roll in Jett’s life.

 Enjoy:

Ashley Garcia – A Jett Story

It was a typical day at the office. It was summer, and it was hot. My partner was in the field and his teenage daughter, Jett, who worked at the office when she was out of school, was at the front desk. I was in my office reviewing camera footage from a case on my laptop.

      I heard the phone ring, followed by Jett’s voice saying, “Investigative Associates, how may I help you? Yes Sir. Yes Sir. He is not in the office, but I can take a mess. . .okay, I can transfer you to his voice mail. Yes sir. Yes, it’s confidential. Thank you, sir, please hold.” Then I heard the sound of her pressing buttons on the phone, hard, and then “Gawwwwd. . People. . .So pushy.”

“Were they being rude, Little Chica?” I asked. Chica means “girl” in Spanish, and since she first came here, at ten years old, that’s been her nickname for me. My mom called me “Little Chica” when I was a girl too. Jett and I share a biracial heritage but ours are different from each other’s. My mother is from Puerta Rico, my father is Dominican. Jett’s mother is African American, and her father is a white guy. Her father is also my business partner, mentor, and friend. Jett is 15 years old, and had a particular rough end to her school year. Jett is a shy, sensitive girl who tends to get bullied by some of the older boys in her school. Jett also knows how to fight and kicks some serious ass, but for some reason the boys just keep up the bullying, while she keeps kicking their asses. I swear she could be my daughter if she weren’t.  This year, though, the boys that bully her went too far and she is still recovering, at least mentally.

“Yes,” she said emphatically, “They were all worked up about something. Kept asking if I really worked here over and over and asking for dad. They need to chill.”

“You want to do some field work with me tonight?” I asked, “After your karate class? Or workout, whichever one you do tonight?”

“Yes!” Jett said, “What do I need to do?”

“Come with me to a coffee shop, pretend to be my daughter, and be a typical teenager taking selfies, so I can get pics of someone who may be up to trouble. Just to make it fun I’ll fuss at you for taking selfies the whole time and you can pretend to have attitude.”

“Easy. Yes. What time?”

“We need to be there at 9:00pm.”

I was working a divorce case. The wife knows her husband is cheating, and she wants some leverage in case they can’t come to a settlement with the divorce; as he is trying to leave her with nothing. He and the other lady meet at a particular coffee shop on a regular basis, often with other friends, never with the wife. We’re hoping for an opportunity to get some pics that indicate something is going on. Sleazy, sure, but it’s work, and we got bills to pay.

Jett enjoys working in the field and it gives her a chance to pretend to be a normal teenager, which she is not.  I had reservations about letting work at such a young age, but her dad said she needs to learn about the world sooner or later. But it’s a job. Jett’s dad, my partner, pays her cash for helping out and she gets to learn the family business.

“No problem. I have karate until 7:00pm. If you can pick me up and bring me back I can run up and get a shower real quick.”

“No problem Little Chica. We’ll make it happen. We’ll kill two birds with one stone and drop off some missing persons flyers with the manager before we leave.” We’re also currently contracting, through the lawyer who keeps us on retainer, with the local police on missing person cases; mainly kids that have run away or are missing. It’s been an increasing problem here locally as well as across the state. Often times we are able to go places where the police don’t have jurisdiction to get information to help them put their cases together. We had a harrowing one a few months ago when we busted a prostitution/trafficking racket run out of a bar north of here, outside of city limits. My partner managed to get to the missing girl, as well as another young lady looking to escape, who were essentially being kept prisoner via drug addiction, get them out of the bar by creating a series of distractions (something he’s really good at in a loud, chaotic and clumsy way), so I could receive them off the fire escape behind the building and drive them back to town where we met the local police, who had an open case on her. I got to admit, it was harrowing and scary and I loved every second of it.

I heard the sound of the door open. I got up and went out of the office as Jett looked up at the visitor and said, “May I help you?”

“Yea. Tell Garcia that Frankie is here and needs to talk to her.”

“Ok. Ashley!! Mr Frankie wants to talk to you. Are you here?” Jett yelled, and then, to Frankie, “Where did you park today? Not in the handicapped spot again I hope.” She laughed as she said this. I arranged to have his car towed last time he came here and parked in the handicapped spot in front of the building.

“Subtle Jett, yes, I’m here. I’m right behind you.”

“Hey Kid, Jett, right? I heard you’ve been collecting a few trophies at some kind of kung fu contests or something. That’s righteous. Congratulations.”

“It’s karate tournaments and thanks. I’m going for my black belt this summer.”

“I bet your old man is proud. I would be too. Good job kid. And no, I didn’t park in the handicapped spot again. I’m sure Garcia in there already checked the cameras and would have called the police if I had. Fool me once.”

Jett rolled her eyes at the man. He was a jerk, a douche-bag, an asshole. He knew it and everyone else knew it too. He was also a fellow private eye who tended to work for all the wrong people. Lately, though, he’d been spending more time chasing bounties and doing security work for the local elite.

“Stalking the kid Frankie? Classy. How would you know about her karate tournaments?”

“I thought they were kung fu or some shit like that. Whatever, I’ll explain in your office.”

“Well, you got no more than 30 minutes, and you will be billed for this time. Do you agree with that?”

“Sure, my boss will pick up the tab. I miss the days we’d meet your partner in the bar and work out deals over cheap scotch and cigarettes.”

“What are you here for Frankie?”

“Okay Garcia. Business. Got it. Time is money.”

“What are you here for Frankie?”

“I’m here to broker a deal for my client. Consider me a mediator.”

“Here we go,” I said and rolled my eyes at Frankie, “this again.”

“Yea. This. Last time I blindsided you. This time I’m gonna give you an opportunity to know all the variables. See, you’ve been following my client around all over town, collecting evidence of perceived improprieties so his soon to be ex wife can take him to the cleaners. Now, my client is a pillar of the community; a real stand up guy. Respected religious man. If these pictures make it to court then his reputation may suffer; and that’s on you.”

“Maybe he oughta stop cheating on his wife, Frankie,” I said.

“Perceived improprieties, like I said earlier. But that’s not the point. I’m appealing to your sense of empathy. I’m sure you’re more sympathetic to the wife in this case. I know you women like to stick together. But I’m here to broker a deal.”

“You know we don’t make deals regarding active cases. That would be unethical.”

“But not illegal. I’m here to offer you a lot of money, at least triple what you’re already being paid, to work for my client instead. And all he’s asking you to do is nothing. He doesn’t want his wife investigated. He’s got that covered. He just wants to put you on retainer, so you can recuse yourself from this case with his wife. Triple is the starting point, by the way.”

The husband in question is a local pastor who heads up a huge mega church and preaches on the sins of fornication, adultery, homosexuality; all of which we think he practices on a regular basis. At least the first two.

“Alright Frankie. You knew the answer before you even walked in the door. So, we’re good here. Have a day.” I got up to escort Frankie out the door, but he just sat there and smiled.

“What, there’s more? You can’t possibly think you can get anywhere with this.”

“That brings us to the other side of the deal. See, my client commissioned me to do some research on you guys too. Of course, there isn’t much about you guys we don’t already know, but the kid… That’s a different story.”

This got my hackles up. Dragging Jett into this was going too far. “Frankie,” I started to say, sternly, “If yo..”

“Save it Garcia.  See, I found out that the kid has people South of here. Her mom got herself into some trouble with the Family while she was here, went to your esteemed partner, in a bar, for help, and he swindled the Family out of some money to send the woman out of town. Ten years later, this kid shows up. Cute kid, she looks like her mom, but has your partner’s blue eyes. Her dad is the same guy who got her mom out of town. Now, here we are, five years later, and I find out, while doing some research for my client, that she has her mother’s people that don’t know a thing about her that live just south of here.”

“Frankie,” I said angrily, but he cut me off again. The Family, he referred to, was a local crime syndicate that ran downtown. They ran legal strip clubs and peep shows, but behind the scenes they ran gambling, prostitution and other assorted prohibited ventures. These days, the current generation still runs downtown, but makes more money on legal endeavors than they ever did in crime.  Real estate was making millions, as well as contracting out labor and construction. Seems like half this town is tearing itself down while the half is perpetually rebuilding and spreading. They got in early with real estate, construction and labor and made a fortune without the headache of avoiding jail.

“How do you think they would feel if they found out that the daughter of their deceased sister, daughter, whatever, has been living here for the last five years without them knowing it? I bet they would love to come up here and meet her, spend some time with her. For some reason, they don’t seem to even know she exists. Why is that? Wait. . don’t answer. I know why. It’s because of their lifestyle. Drugs, gambling, drama. The kid’s mom did good to get out of that lifestyle and kept her daughter from them, right? So her dad continues to honor her wish to protect her only child from the very thing that put her mom on the wrong path. She probably told him that they messed up her life and she doesn’t want them messing up their kid’s life. So, he keeps this big secret from them.”

“If you harm this child for. .”

“No no no no no. . You’re reading too much into this. I wouldn’t do that to the kid. She’s doing good. She’s winning karate tournaments, works in the office. I bet she makes good grades too. Nah. I’m not a monster, in spite of what you think. I’m an asshole, sure, but not a monster. I was never asked to talk to the family and tell them about the kid and I wouldn’t do that myself.”

I knew there was another shoe about to drop here so I just waited to see what he would say next.

“But, I was asked to do research on you guys and, if things go bad for my client, I imagine that he’ll want to see my research. Once I turn those files over to him, I can’t control what happens next. And I’m sure you’d agree it would be unethical, using your words, to censor my research and leave out the stuff about the kid. It would just be out of my control. So, I’m being a stand-up guy here and warning you, as a professional courtesy, of the hazards apparent in this particular situation.”

“Thanks Frankie,” I said sarcastically, “You’re a real fucking humanitarian here.”

“Pretty face, trashy mouth,” he replied, “You should clean that mouth out doll.”

“Fuck off. Here’s the deal. This started out professional, but you just made it personal by involving my partner’s daughter in your bribery/extortion scheme. Anything happens that causes any harm to her and I will personally kick your ass, and I can’t even imagine what her dad would do. You know we can’t bail on a case and expect to have credibility moving forward. Your client wants to play games though? See, his wife wasn’t going to release those pictures publicly. She only wants to use them as leverage to get a better settlement. If that works, out, then there is no need for anyone to get embarrassed. If he decides he’s not going to give her that settlement, then she can do what she wants with the pictures. That’s out of our control. So, tell your client to keep it in his pants and work out a good deal with his wife and no one has to have any problems. But, I’d hate for these pictures we already have to end up on social media somehow.”

“If those pictures end up on social media and ruin my client, then he would have no choice but to let the cat out of the bag about the kid.”

“You know I’m not going to draw first blood on this. But we have a fail-safe. Don’t make me use it.”

Frankie was talking about incriminating pictures as if they actually exist, I noticed. His mistake, we were still collecting information. He’s a dumbass as much as he’s an asshole.

“So, what do you want to do?” I asked.

“It’s all up to you. I’d drop your client and take the first deal and leave the unpleasantness aside.”

“It must be hard for your client to pretend to be so high and mighty, but to be up to all kinds of sleazy shenanigans in secret. It would be easier for him to actually live the life he pretends to live. And to involve an innocent child in an extortion scheme. That’s shameful. This would make a great news story, you know. How many investigative journalists would love to get their hands on this story?”

“Perceived improprieties,” Frankie said carefully.

“You sure about that?” I asked, doubling down on the bluff.

“My client is just eager to get this behind him, so he can get back to tending his flock.”

“Not sure what his definition of ‘tending the flock’ is though.” I leaned back without breaking eye contact.

Frankie eyed me nervously. I pressed further.
“You can’t win this Frankie. We both have information the other doesn’t want anyone to see. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game though. Just tell your guy that if anything happens with the kid, then something happens with our info. Simple as that. Keep the kid out of it, and we get back to business as usual.”

Frankie eyed me further, not saying a word. He was stuck.

“Better yet, tell your client he can make this all go away by simply working out a fair deal with his wife. That’s all she’s asking. She only wants leverage in case she doesn’t get a fair deal, and this goes to litigation. She’s not unreasonable.”

“What if I just turn over what I have to him now and let him decide?”

“We’ll hold you both responsible if any harm comes to the child as a result. Otherwise, he’d be stupid to pull the trigger on this. There is no way he maintains his reputation when it’s all over.”

Frankie stared at me some more and finally said “I fucking hate you guys.”

“I’d feel worse if you liked me.”
“What do I tell my client?”

“Tell him the truth. I’m sure he’s a pragmatic man and will see the utility in not risking his reputation and career. Advise him to work out a fair settlement with his wife.”

“What if she extorts him with the info you collected?”

“That’s not our problem Frankie. He probably should have kept it in his pants in the first place.”

The truth is that we didn’t have anything yet, but apparently his client was worried about what we may have found, and Frankie thinks we found it. The wife has nothing to extort him with. If we’re lucky, we can ride this bluff out to the end as long as no one gets too greedy.

Frankie stood up and said, “Well, it’s a lot to think about,” and turned towards the door.

“Then get to thinking Frankie,” I replied, “And don’t say a word of this in front of the kid, got it?”

Franked nodded and opened the door to walk out. Jett checked the clock and then typed one more entry into the laptop in front of her, moments later paper came sliding out of the printer.

“Your invoice. We expect payment within ten days,” Jett said.

“How come you guys never pay me?”

“Because we don’t ever come to you for anything Frankie,” I said.

By the time our meeting was over it was time for Jett’s karate class. She grabbed her backpack and went to the bathroom to change clothes and came out in her karate outfit.

“Can I drive you to karate today Little Chica?” I asked.

“Sure. I do running and weights tomorrow, so I don’t have to ride my bike,” Jett replied, “Are we still going to the coffee shop tonight?”

I thought about it for a moment. There was no reason to follow the good reverend around tonight, as he already thinks that I have something on him. So, I can cancel that.

“Yes, we are,” I told Jett, “and can I watch you do karate practice with the moms again?”

“Okay, that’s fine,” she replied, a little embarrassed.

I put my arm around the girl’s shoulder and gave her a little hug from beside her as she walked out the door. “Don’t be so embarrassed Little Chica,” I said, “I love to sit and watch and be proud of you just like all the other moms. Next year you will have your driver’s license and you can drive yourself, so let me enjoy spending time with you before you grow up on me.”

Jett didn’t notice my Freudian slip.

 

The Bullies and the Talk – Excerpt from Jett

NOTE: This story takes place before Jett confronts the bully, Mike, for the first time.  

Mike, his girlfriend, Angelique, and a few of his guy friends, were walking towards her again. Mike was looking at her and sneering as he approached. Her heart sped up and she looked down to avoid eye contact. She was anxious every time when she saw Mike and his friends. Mike was taller than her. While Jett was almost 5’2, Mike was 5’8. Mike was on the football team and lifted weights all the time, so he had muscular arms compared to Jett. Jett was small; a petite 14-year-old girl; Mike was a larger than average 15 year old.
As they walked by Mike reached out and knocked her books out of her hands. They did this about 2 times a week. It would be easier if it happened every day, but it was random and Jett never knew when to expect to see them. Jett’s books went flying from her arms and she stopped to pick them up. Mike stopped too, laughing, and started kicking her books as she tried to pick them up.
“Come on half breed, get the books. You’re making a mess,” he said, laughing at the girl. His girlfriend laughed nervously but Jett could tell that she didn’t really like this. Then Mike dropped one of his books on the ground. Jett looked up him, annoyed, but said nothing.
“Pick it up!” Mike ordered sternly, “Pick it up now.”
“I’m getting my books Mike,” Jett said, “Get your own book.”
“Listen half breed, pick up my damn book or I swear I’ll kick you in the face!”
“Mike,” his girlfriend said, concerned, “Don’t threaten to kick girls. You’re being kind of a dick.”
Jett just grabbed his book and handed it to him. It was usually easier to just give in and get it over with.
“There, thank you. That’s not so hard,” Mike said to Jett, and then to Angelique, “You have to know how to talk to them. Let them know whose boss. They’ll fall in line. Half breeds are like that.”
Jett exhaled in frustration and rolled her eyes at this. She wanted so bad to say something, but she was just too scared. Years of bullying from the same kids had worn her down.
“Did you make a face at me? Bitch.” Mike said, “Go ahead, make all the faces you want. Nobody likes you. You’re not anything and you don’t belong here. You aren’t like us and you aren’t like the kids at the other schools. No one likes you or wants you around. So, pick up your damn books and get out of my sight.”
As Jett finished picking up her books Mike knocked them out of her hands again. “Damn,” he said, “You can’t even get that right. Nobody fucking cares about you.”
With Mike it was personal for some reason. He was relentless in his bullying of Jett. The other kids may join in at the beginning but would start to get uncomfortable and try to distract him or get him to move on. Being biracial made Jett a target for Mike. He would also say terrible things about her dad. Jett identified as a black girl, but that just made it more intense for Mike. He wasn’t shy about his racist tendencies. This had gone on since Jett first started school with these kids when she was ten years old. They would bully her and bully any kids that attempted to be friends with her. Ultimately, Jett felt isolated most of the time and spent her down time either alone or with whatever teacher would offer her company. This year it was Ms Henderson, who would allow Jett to eat lunch with her in her classroom sometimes.
“Dude, let it go. Come on, let’s get to class,” one of Mike’s friends said, nervously, “you’ve fucked with her enough.”
“Fuck you, she deserves it,” Mike said as he walked off with his friends. Jett continued down the hall, nervously clutching her books to her chest and trying not to cry. The other kids looked at her sympathetically but said nothing.
At lunch Jett sat at a table by herself. Ms Henderson had lunch duty so she couldn’t sit in her class today. A couple of other girls and one boy sat at her table, said hi to her, and then started talking to each other. At times they would try to include her but Jett just didn’t know what to say. She would nod her head or say “cool,” and then they would continue talking. At least they tried. Jett sat and ate her usual sandwich and chips. She generally wasn’t hungry, but she would be hungry later so she made herself eat.
After school Jett left her last class, put her back pack on her back and walked towards the drive, where her ride would be waiting. She almost made it to the door when she felt someone pull on her backpack to pull her backwards. When she stopped walking, he pulled the back off her back and dropped it on the floor.
“Whoa. . almost made it half breed. But you dropped your stuff again.” It was one of Mike’s friends.
Jett was tired and frustrated. She looked at the boy and said, “I’m not half breed. I’m black. My dad is white and my mom is black. You can call me biracial if it makes you feel better. But I’m not a half breed. I’m not any kind of breed.”
“Well you’re not fucking purebred, that’s for sure,” Mike said as he joined his friend. “Black, biracial, whatever. Your dad is white, and your mom is black? That’s fucking white genocide. You’re dad’s a piece of shit.”
“Don’t talk about my dad,” Jett said, “He could kick your ass. He doesn’t take crap off anyone.”
“Well, apparently you didn’t inherit those genes. Wait.. Are you sure he’s your dad? I’ve heard about your kind. Hardly ever really know who your dads are. Fuck you Jett. And fuck your dad. You’re a half breed, an animal.” Mike appeared to get angrier as he spoke. One of his friends noticed it and said, “Come on man. Let’s get to football practice.” The two boys walked off. Jett noticed other kids were watching their conversation. She also noticed that two teachers who were in the hallway were trying not to watch.
Jett stifled her tears again and walked outside to the car where Ashley, her dad’s assistant and friend, was waiting to pick her up and bring her to their office. She didn’t want Ashley or her dad to see her cry. She took a deep breath, walked outside and just got in the car.
“Hey little Chica,” Ashley said, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Jett said, and went silent.
“Okay,” Ashley said, concerned, “Let me know if I need to kick someone’s butt for you, ok?”
Jett didn’t say anything.
All the way to the office Jett didn’t say a word. She was afraid if she started talking she would start crying. Today was a particularly bad day. When they arrived Jett got her backpack and walked quickly to the elevator. She didn’t say a word all the way up to the fourth floor. She burst into the room and walked quickly past her dad without saying a word, headed straight for the conference room.
“Hey kid! How was your day? Hey! ” Her dad tried to say, while holding his coffee mug and watching her rush by. Jett didn’t say anything. She walked into the conference room, slung her back pack onto the floor and slammed the door behind her. Ashley walked in behind Jett and approached her dad.
“She didn’t say anything all the way home. Something happened that upset her,” she said, “but she won’t talk about it.”
“Ok. Let me go see what’s going on,” he said, concerned, “that’s not like her.” Her dad followed her into the room and just took a moment to observe her, to see what was going on. Jett was sitting at the conference table with her head in her hands, crying. She tried to stifle the tears when she saw him watching, but it was too late. He walked over to her and started to put his arm around her to comfort her.
“No. I don’t want a hug. If you hug me then I’m going to start bawling all out of control,” she said firmly.
“Okay. I can respect that. What’s wrong Jett?”
“I hate that f.. I hate that school. I f.. Ugh!”
“If you want to say ‘I hate that fucking school,’ just say it. I’ll give you a pass on the language this time. Sometimes you just have to say what you feel like saying to say it right.”
“I HATE THAT FUCKING SCHOOL!!!!” Jett said, loudly, with emphasis on the word ‘fucking.’
“Ok. What is it you hate about that fucking school so much?”
“Dad, no. It’s just kind of weird when you use the F word.”
“Kid, I’ve been using that word since before you were born. What happened at school?”
Jett’s dad sat down in the chair next to hers and she turned her chair to face him, so she could talk. “I hate it. The kids are terrible. I’m always alone. I don’t have any friends. I get picked on and bullied all the time. I’m a nobody.”
“Bullied? Who is bullying you?”
“A group of boys. Mainly one named Mike. He’s a year older. He calls me ‘half breed,’ ‘animal,’ ‘mongrel,’ and a lot of other names. He pushes me, tells me that no one likes me, knocks my books out of my hand, every week. His friends just go along with it.”
“Mike. On the football team? Quarterback? His dad’s on the city counsel? Bigshot local attorney?”
“Yes. That’s him.”
“I know his dad. He’s an asshole too. Have you talked to the teachers or principle?”
“And be a snitch? Everyone already hates me.”
“Then you got nothing to lose.”
“They act like it doesn’t happen. They try not to look.”
“The other kids don’t talk to you?”
“They try, but I’m always so nervous about what Mike may do that I don’t know how to act. And, if he sees other kids talking to me he will threaten them too. He hates me for some reason. He’s racist.”
“How long has this been going on?” her dad asked.
“Since Texas dad. Since Texas. Started when I was ten.”
Her dad looked at her incredulously, “This has been going on all this time and you haven’t said anything?”
“I didn’t want to look weak. I figured I could deal with it. Or it would change. Or something.”
“Look weak? By not telling me about this? You have to be weak before you can get strong.”
“I guess it’s because you and Ashley are always in control and know what to do. I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
“Jett, look at me,” he said, looking the girl in the eyes, “You don’t disappoint me at all. Telling me this, or crying, or being weak, whatever that means, is all part of being a kid. So, you’ve been keeping this to yourself for four years?”
“Yes,” Jett said, and she started crying again.
“I’m sorry Jett. You never have to keep things from me. It’s too much of a burden for a kid to carry all alone. You can always come to me, or Ashley, with anything. We’re your family.”
Jett looked down, and then up again. “I just don’t know what to do to make it stop,” she said.
“I’ve never had to deal with racism before. Obviously, I’m white and that hasn’t been a problem for me. I wish I could just take it all on, so you don’t have to deal with it, but we both know that’s not possible. Let’s get Ashley in here, I’m sure she’s dealt with this before. Ashley!”
Ashley walked into the room and approached Jett and her dad. “What’s wrong honey?” she asked Jett.
“Jett’s being bullied by a group of kids and they have isolated her from the others. But the worst of it is that the main kid is racist.”
Jett started crying again and Ashley approached her and put her arm around here and held her a moment. “It hurts. I know. But we have to be strong. Both of us, as women of color we have to be strong for ourselves and for each other.”
“But how?” Jett asked, “I’m just so nervous all the time. Nothing works.”
Jett’s dad regarded the girl a moment, deciding how to carefully say what he was about to say.
“Kid, I’ve never experienced racism directed at myself. But I have dealt with bullies. One thing you must remember about life: The world can be a shitty place with shitty people. That’s never going to change. No matter what you do or where you go, you’re going to run into that. And it’s going to be hard for you sometimes. That’s just reality.”
Jett looked up at her dad, confused and said, “You’re not making me feel any better.”
Her dad looked back and then said, sternly, “I’m not trying to make you feel better. It’s not my responsibility to make you feel better about how shitty people can be towards you. It’s my job to prepare you for it; to teach you how to deal with it, to teach you how to excel and to do what you want to do in spite of it. When you start learning that, then you will feel better.”
“How? They won’t stop.” Jett said, clearly frustrated.
“No, they won’t. But you can’t let that get in your way anymore. It’s time for a change.”
Jett looked at him, confused, and said, “if they won’t stop, then what’s the point? It’s hopeless.”
Jett’s dad looked at her again and then said, firmly, “Stand up.”
“What?”
“Stand up. Now. Do it.”
Jett stood up and wiped the tears from her eyes.
“They don’t like you either Dad, just so you know. He hates you for having me.” Jett said.
“Good. I’m glad. If you’re hated by bad people then you must doing something right in life. Anyway, this guy, and his friends, are assholes. Simple as that. I don’t care why, or how they got that way. Not our problem. They can figure that out for themselves. But, they are assholes.”
“He’s racist dad,” Jett said.
“Then he’s a racist asshole. Anyway, we don’t give people like that more time or attention then we think they deserve. If my goal is to get from point A to point B, I’m not gonna let some racist asshole distract me from my goal. My goals are a lot more important than something some racist asshole has to say. So, I’m going to stay focused on my goal. Fuck that racist asshole.”
“Dad! Language!” Jett said, “It’s weird hearing you say that.”
“Well, you’re going to say it next. And you’re going to mean it, young lady. Say. Say ‘fuck those racist assholes.’”
“Dad, I don’t wanna..”
“SAY IT! I’ll give you a pass on the profanity, so you get the big picture.”
“Ok f-fuck those racist assholes.”
“Say it like you mean it.”
“Fuck those racist assholes.”
Ashley interjected, “are you sure you should be encouraging the use of those words?”
Jett’s dad ignored her and said, “Say it again. With attitude.”
“Fuck those racist assholes.”
“Hold your head up when you say it. Stand up straight. Don’t look so defeated.”
Jett straightened up her posture and said, with more emotion, “Fuck those racist assholes!”
“Good. Now you have some attitude. You need that to deal with bullies. They respond to fear and anxiety. Give them confidence and attitude. They won’t know how to react.”
Ashley interjected again, “What if they react by getting violent. What if he decides he is going to put his hands on her?”
“If a boy puts his hands on you without your permission, you have MY permission to hit him in the mouth as hard as you can. I don’t want you to start a fight, but you have every right to defend yourself and to enforce your own personal boundaries.”
Ashley interjected again, “Are you sure?”
Jett’s dad responded by saying, “She’s my kid. She’ll know how to throw a punch. Trust me.” To Jett he said, “Don’t walk around looking scared. Stand up straight, keep your head up, look people in the eyes when you talk to em, say what you mean and mean what you say. Confidence and attitude. Once you decide you need to defend yourself from some boy trying to hurt you, then don’t second guess yourself. Commit to it and follow through.”
“How do I throw a punch? I don’t think that kind of knowledge gets genetically transmitted,” Jett said.
“Ok. Start with your feet. You need a solid foundation. Now, make a fist, and when you punch, know exactly where you’re going and get there by the shortest possible route. Don’t throw some round house punch if he’s standing right in front of you.” Jett’s dad then worked with her on throwing a punch the right way, how to put all of her force behind it. This was basic self defense stuff that he’d learned as a kid too. “Now, understand, that this is the last resort thing you do when someone is trying to hurt you or about to try to hurt you. You will not start a fight. You will only defend yourself. Understood?”
“Understood,” Jett said.
Jett and her dad worked on throwing punches, with Jett punching him in the hand. As her form improved and she punched harder, her dad reminded her of what she needed to think to herself when she comes across these guys.
“Dad,” she said, between punches, “can’t you just go to school and talk to the principle?”
“I can, and I probably will if this continues. But it won’t help. That won’t stop them. The principle will make some excuse and talk in platitudes and those assholes will just wait until no one is looking to do something. Sooner or later you’re going to have to figure out how to deal with them.”
Jett rolled her eyes at her dad and kept punching.
“Now, here’s the deal. I don’t want you to hit anyone. I don’t even want to talk to those kids. Just say our little catch phrase to yourself, in your mind and keep on going to point B. Ignore those racist assholes. Ok?”
“I’ll try,” Jett said.
“NO. Do or do not.. There is no try.” Jett’s dad said in his best Yoda voice.
“Ughhh!” Jett said, and then laughed.
Later that night, when Jett was in her room with her tablet, she looked up karate punches. Sure enough, she found something similar to what her dad taught her. She also learned a combination of punching in the face, kneeing in the crotch, and using the person’s momentum to get him to the ground. Jett acted out the moves quietly in her room. She didn’t want to have to do anything, but if she did have to, she decided that she was going to be ready.