From Chicken Soup for the Soul Daily Inspirations for Women

February 15

I’d never noticed how tall he was until I stood between him and the objects of his anger. I knew that he played varsity football, that he carried a weekly progress report, and that slipping marks could disqualify him from play. But he was doing well in my class.

We’d been studying the Civil War, and today we’d been watching excerpts from Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary. At one particular moment, the students were riveted to the scene on the television screen: a recalcitrant slave’s gruesomely welted back. The room was hushed, except for two obnoxiously giggling boys in the back-row corner desks.

Eric erupted like hot lava, challenging the boys with his fists. I moved quickly between them. “Please . . . ,” I soothed, “please sit down.” Minutes passed. The bell rang. The two boys, scared silent by his anger, exited the far door. As he and I stood squarely facing each other, I sensed the impotent torment of the young black male who stood before me.

I had known his anger before. But until now, until today, I had not known his anguish.

Willanne Ackerman

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