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How rage can gang up on youth and youth gang up on you.

The rage that observers say is sweeping America does not just arise from some sudden perceived injustice. It is a constant emotional force. Here are two essays by inner-city teenagers on how they cope with their rage. Franklin Smith is a pseudonym for an African-American high school student living in San Francisco's inner city. Erica Hardwick-Montoya attends a continuation school in Richmond, Calif. Both work with YO! (Youth Outlook), a newspaper by and about Bay Area teens published by Pacific News Service and the Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism of San Francisco State University.

Rage is a lot like fire: Try and hold it and it'll burn you up and gut you out. The rage in me has caused me to commit violent acts. Being a black male, I feel like I've found a gold mine whenever I'm given a reason to fight (and beat) a white man.

The other day on the bus, a white man sitting next to my friend got aggressive when my friend tried to put his backpack down. When I saw this man put his hands on my friend and push, I didn't even think. I hopped up and began blasting on him with dual pistons, better known as my fists.

Rage. It felt good trying to dislocate that man's jaw because that's the only way I know how to release my anger on a race I feel has caused almost all of my problems. Many people say I have no excuse for beating up innocent whites, and they may be right. But I'm human and every human has a breaking point. I feel as if I've already reached mine.

When I've done something violent, I feel elated, as if a weight has been lifted off my chest (especially if the violence has been financially profitable). But after a while, I also begin to think about the future--the crimes that have been perpetrated against me as a black person as well as other blacks--and I start to feel hopeless.

The rage wells up again, waiting for that opportune time when its purpose can be served. It's a vicious cycle.

But I don't know what else to do, how to react, even how to feel. It seems to me talking just doesn't work. All those people who died just so I could vote died in vain.

I refuse to sit down at a town meeting and discuss solutions and possible laws when I know nothing's going to come from it except more frustration.

That leaves me with two options. Either I don't give in to my rage, which means going crazy, becoming a hermit or living with a false sense that "everything's going to be all right"; or give in to it, which means I go to jail, get beat or die. Right now, I'd rather die a sane man than live as a crazy one.

I am a white American teenager, and these days that's a very scary thing to be. A friend of mine shows me the scars he got when a group of black males beat and stabbed him in his high school after the Rodney King verdict last year. All my friends say they're carrying guns as a daily routine to protect themselves.

They won't allow the blacks to scare them from going outside. I say to blacks, don't blame me because you believe you got a raw deal.

Do you want a war? Do you want to fight for years? Guess what, no one wins a war. We die, you die, and what does that accomplish?

The question is, How will people see you? White people that were once on the side of Rodney King and the prosecution will wonder if they were right. Whites who at one time wanted to help get the issue of injustice out in the open and become friends with blacks have now closed their doors as well as their minds. Is that going to get blacks anywhere?

Who in hell am I to talk? Well, I'm a white human, I'm an ex-gang member, and I have felt the rage that may not be so different from what many young blacks are feeling now.

When my best friend got shot and I was there, I hated everyone. I went to a rival gang girl's house and kicked the hell our of her. But when I got my head back together, I realized I hadn't solved anything. My friend was still hurt. Instead of hating the girl I beat up, I hated myself for letting the situation get the best of me.

As for whites like the cops who beat up King, they want blacks to riot and kill as many whites as they can. Why? Because they want to see blacks rot in jail, they want blacks to be jobless and they want blacks to be uneducated so they'll never have a voice. They know if blacks give in to their rage, they'll be digging their own graves.
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Title Annotation:youth narratives
Author:Smith, Franklin L.; Hardwick-Montoya, Erica
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Panel Discussion
Date:Apr 30, 1993
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