12-year-old Amari Allen went to school on Monday morning to reunite with her classmates and learn — not become a victim of a hate crime.

Even though the incident occurred on Monday, Allen didn’t report the three white boys at her school who pinned her down and cut off part of her locs until later in the week when her family pressed her about why her hair was suddenly different lengths. She later admitted to The Daily Beast that she didn’t say anything in fear that she would not be protected in the case of retaliation.

“They had scissors, so they could have done anything to me. I was afraid if I told the teacher they wouldn’t care.” 

She described the attack in further detail.

The boys came up to me and they ambushed me sort of, like caged me in. And so they put their hands over my mouth. They put my hands behind my back and they started cutting my hair and told me that I was ugly.”

It is absolutely heartbreaking that a young black girl was made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe in an environment where her only worry should be getting a good grade about her next test. And even though the fact that these three boys are white is a crucial part of the story, this isn’t a story merely about race, or even gender. It goes even further than that. It’s about religion, politics, and belief systems. And at the core, it’s about discrimination and othering.

girl locs cut off
Amari after the incident / Twitter

Most people can agree that the most alarming aspect of this story is the ages of the children. Three middle schoolers verbally and physically assaulted another middle schooler merely because of her identity. Attacking her appearance with words like “nappy” and “ugly” is obviously learned behavior. These kids didn’t come out the womb spewing racist rhetoric. Their discriminatory behavior had to come from somewhere — more than likely at home, but undoubtedly from the school as well.

It all went down at Immanuel Christian School, a private Christian school in Virginia that had already been in the news surrounding controversy over its policy of only allowing heterosexual-identifying people to enroll as well as work there. Let that sink in for a second.

An institution who puts God first won’t allow anyone who doesn’t fit their image within their doors. Not only do you have to sign a contract asserting your belief that marriage is only between a man and a woman but you also have to admit that homosexuality is a Biblical sin that is wrong and immoral in order to be even considered for enrollment. It really doesn’t get more discriminatory than that.

The issue is a problematic belief system. A belief system based on negative principles like superiority, homophobia, condescension. Many news outlets included the fact VP Mike Pence’s wife Karen Pence has a long history with the school. You might be wondering what Karen Pence being a part-time employee there has to do with anything but the second lady’s employment at a school that is based on discrimination and exclusivity isn’t a far jump from her direct connection to the ferret-haired bigot whose presidency is based on division, discrimination, and exclusion.

The school seems to be fostering an intolerant atmosphere, but isn’t that just a microcosm of the atmosphere Trump has created?

It’s been a fear that 45’s presidency has only emboldened the hateful and ignorant people in this country to reveal themselves and maybe this is just another example of that and insight into the kind of people we’re breeding as a society, aka bullies. Amari’s mother explained that this was not the boys’ first time offense; they’d apparently been taking her lunch every day and calling her names, which to be fair (for lack of a better word) is typical adolescent bully behavior. But this particular day, however, Amari said,

They like took my lunch and ate it in front of me and told me I didn’t deserve it, that I could just starve and stuff like that.” 

The idea that those who are deemed less valuable in society are also less deserving is a dangerous one and one that is becoming more common, or at least more visible. We see it in our immigration policies, our prison system, our daily politics. The scary part is that these kinds of ideas are not dying off with the last vestiges of a supposedly less tolerant America; instead, they are being taught to our young people. For the sake of the future of our nation and our children, I just hope we soon make better decisions about who we decide to be the leaders and examples of how we treat each other.

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