Kanye West Started a Fight in my Class

Kanye West Started a Fight in my Class
By: Adisa, The Bishop

For the past week or so America has been debating the idea put forth by Kanye West that “Slavery
was a choice”.

To protect the identity of the boys we call them Marlon and Mike. As I am resetting the chessboard as
the previous class leaves, Marlon comes in and says “ Mr. Bishop, I gotta tell you some things about
Mike. First off, this nigga is a coon!” he says with a devilish grin. It is important to note that Marlon
has a sharp tongue and loves to roast people. He and Mike have a chess rivalry and go hard on one
another verbally and mentally.

Marlon continues “Yeah man, he said slavery was a choice. He’s over here siding with that Kanye
West bullshit.”

I looked at Mike and said “ You think slavery was a choice?”

Without missing a beat he said “Yeah.”

Marlon cut in “Tell him how stupid he is Mr. Bishop” he said with a nod.

“Hold on, hold on” I said trying to lower the energy in the room. The whole class was watching intently.

“Do you believe that for real?” I asked again. “Because if you do I’d have to suggest that you read
books. Don’t you know how many countless slave rebellions they had back in the day? You had Nat
Turner, Denmark Vesey and then you have White men like John Brown at Harper's Ferry- but there
were many. There were more than I can try to list. We have people fighting our oppression right now!
It's not even over.”

Defiantly Mike shook he head “I would never let anyone enslave me. I ain’t no bitch.”

Marlon jumped right back in. “You’re really dumb. Slavery was complicated. They didn’t have guns.
Where were they gonna get weapons?”

“Wait, wait!” I said. “Mike, you are a descendant of those that were enslaved. If you think they were
bitches, then, in some way you must think you are born of bitches. You are not. You come from
warriors. Warriors who fight the system till this day. You have to know that.”

Marlon is now in a chair setting a chessboard up so he and I can play a game . “This guy is a coon
Mr. Bishop.”

Marlon immediately clenches his fist and says “Let’s box. I’m not afraid of you” and punches his hand
twice. "That will be your face!”

Unmoved by the display of force, he casually says “Mike you know we can’t box because we don’t
have headgear. I would box you if I could.”

Marlon was sitting in his chair with his back to Mike and something in Mike snapped. He grabbed
Marlon from behind and fell to the floor. I just remember the screaming.
Something like “Let’s goooo. Let’s do this!”

Marlon was actually in no active danger. I have been working on teaching him the value of nonviolence.
I got hims singed up at a great martial arts school nearby.The choke attempt from Marlon was not
effective. Marlon looked at me with a face like “This ain’t working and I’m not worried” and raised his
hands like “I’m not responding.” He could have thrown elbows, he could have set it off. He was
present and calm. He knew I would not let either of them harm one another.

I pulled Mike’’s hands away and broke them up., Our security guard came in. Both of the kids
quietly walked to the office.

I could not help but remember what that guy told Kanye as he was leaving TMZ. Kanye’s uninformed
“Slavery was a choice” lie had Black boys fighting one another to reclaim a dignity that they NEVER
technically lost. The struggle never ended.

Shortly after I went to the office to check in on them. The Principal and I had a solid talk with them.
I told them that in my opinion Marlon used supreme restraint and did not fight back when he was
well within his right. I told Mike that both of them needed to have tougher skin when holding onto
polarizing political social opinions.

Mike wasted no time in apologizing to all of us. He admitted that he snapped because in the past
24 hours since taking Kanye’s side kids had been calling him a coon and other names. He was
so upset that he lost it. He said he had been going through "tourture" since siding with Kanye and
he just could not take anymore. I felt bad for him. He was sincere.

Marlon said he accepted Mike’s apology. He understood his frustrations. He said his only thing was
that he felt that because Mike attacked him from behind that he felt it was cowardly. Then he turned
to the Principal and said “I don’t know what you plan to recommend, suspension or expulsion but I
recommend you do nothing to Mike. It was a small incident and it won’t happen again.” They shook
hands. My jaw was to the floor. I have never seen anything like that in all my years of teaching. That
maturity they both showed after the incident was truly unprecedented. The Principal agreed.

I really have to say of all the teens I’ve worked with Marlon has shown the fastest growth overall.
The next time they came to my class they were chill, battling on the boards and talking smack but
maintaining boundaries of respect. I was super proud of both of them. I was happy with the way the
Principal handled it. I gotta say though that Kanye really has become a weapon of division in the
Black community and education circles. I wish he could come to Realm Charter school and talk to
my kids and see the damage he as done. Not just to my classroom, but in many schools and
homes across across the country. Kanye know's too many wise people. He does not need me to
teach him about slavery. But I would if he asked. He needs to use his network and his net worth
more wisely.

As I sat down to play chess with Marlon I looked under the table and saw he had some fresh
“coke white” shoes on.

I said “Those are dope man, what are they?”

Shaking his head with a chuckle he said “Yeezy’s.”

“How ironic” I laughed.

Adisa, The Bishop is the author of Bobby, Bruce & the Bronx: The Secrets of Hip-Hop Chess and Guest Curator of the Oakland Museum of California's current exhibit RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom open until August 12, 2018. 

*The kid playing chess above is NOT a part of the incident.*

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