Too Much Information?

I had decided not to post this.  If it isn’t yet obvious, I really like my students, find them entirely lovable for all their tough, prickly exteriors.  So I like to write things about them that make plain how wonderful they are.

But then it feels dishonest not to write some of the other things I’m learning about them.  I am thinking right now about Jeovany in particular, but there are disturbing or unsavory things that have come to light about Valerie, about Rajindar, about Billy.

When we watched The Great Debaters, Jeovany was the one student who wanted to talk about the lynching scene right away.  His first question was, “What kind of person do you have to be to do that, to hang a man and set him on fire?”  And I thought that was such a great question and geared up for where I thought we were headed from there.

A little backstory on Jeovany.  Several years ago he was severely beaten by the police, primarily for being a big Puerto Rican who happened to be standing around at a moment when the police ‘lost perspective,’ as some people said at the time.  The beating was serious enough and the police were in the wrong enough that, when it was time for the PD to pay out settlements, Jeovany got one of the largest ones.  Jeovany is covered in scars, many of them from that beating.

So when he spoke up about lynching, I heard his question coming from someone who’d been an innocent victim of gang violence.  That made perfect sense to me.  Of course he would see that connection.

Except I wasn’t thinking about Jeovany’s other scars, the ones that aren’t evidence of police brutality.

“I’ve stabbed my share of ni**ahs,” he said, continuing from his opening question. What?  My brain froze on that for a second.  He proceeded to describe how it felt to drive a knife into a person: both the physical feeling of the blade going through flesh as well as the way he felt knowing what he was doing.  Both descriptions were given dramatically, almost like interpretive dance.  I won’t give any detail here.  Just know that Jeovany is attuned to his senses and that I’m glad I’ve never stabbed anyone because it leaves way too much behind emotionally and psychologically.

So, Jeovany’s point — because he always has one, no matter how off topic and random he can seem sometimes.  His point was that what he’d done was ‘nothing’ (and I am choosing to believe that meant everyone he stabbed survived).  It wasn’t anything like hanging a man and setting him on fire.  And yet the stabbing was really hard for him, really affected him.  So what kind of person do you have to be to lynch someone and feel nothing?

It’s an excellent question, of course.  It just came from a direction I hadn’t expected.

And what do I do with what I know now?  I certainly didn’t imagine that Jeovany had some saintly history.  I’d learned enough about him before that moment to be soundly disabused of any such notion.  But knowing in some vague way that he had gotten up to some ‘mischief’ as a younger man and hearing him describe stabbing people — people, not a person — hearing his graphic description of the act … well, that’s different.  It doesn’t make me take a step away from him, doesn’t make me like him any less, but it makes me see him in a way that I’d rather not have had to see him.  And I’m just not sure what to do with that.

3 thoughts on “Too Much Information?

  1. Maggie, dammit

    HA! That’s awesome!

    I think he means, “In a minute, lady who I’m supposed to refer to with a term of respect that I use for people I don’t actually respect but you I really DO respect and I think you’re sorta hot too so I had a bit of a Freudian slip there.”

    or something?


  2. Maggie, dammit

    Um, woah.

    I’m not sure how that happened, I only saw the first part and that’s when I commented, and then all of a sudden this other post appeared?





  3. Yeah, woah. I know. It’s still freaking me out some, even though Jeovany continues to be one of my favorite students. I had not the least bit of trouble sitting comfortably with him in my office for over half an hour last night during our a-little-past-mid-term conference. Of course. But at the same time, how do I process this?

    Sorry about your cold. Hope you’re feeling better!


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