Racism Depends on Power to Thrive

Racism Depends on Power to Thrive
Photo by John via Flickr Creative Commons

An African-American girl attending Wilson Middle School in Chowchilla in Madera County is trying her best to stand up against racism, but it seems those in power won’t listen.

The father of the girl, who we will call Mary, has asked that their names be kept out of the article for their own safety.

Thirteen-year-old Mary has been physically, emotionally and verbally attacked by classmates, according to her father. The administration has done nothing to help her, seemingly ignoring and downplaying what has happened to her. Worst of all, this has been going on for years, without change in sight.

In November 2019, Mary was given a black eye, but the faculty declared that the student responsible for the injury had “probably” done it by accident, despite witness claims otherwise. The school did not allow Mary to see the nurse, and her parents were not notified. She was told it wasn’t a black eye and was sent back to class, despite the swelling and purple on her face.

In October 2022, a classmate made several threats to her. These threats were reported to the school. Nothing was done. Mary was threatened by the same classmate four times from Oct. 7 to Oct. 12. The school claimed it had no time to investigate.

On Oct. 13, that classmate attacked Mary. On Oct. 14, the principal left a message with Mary’s parents claiming that the classmate had been removed from Mary’s class. As of Oct. 17, the classmate was still in the class.

When Mary has attempted to defend herself, she has been punished by the school, even when pushing someone off and heading straight to the office. In October, she was given half a demerit for this reason. This half demerit was then used to block her from attending two school dances and a school carnival, despite needing a full demerit to be stopped from attending these events per the school flyers.

In December, she was given an additional demerit. However, when the family inquired about the reason they were not given an answer.

Unfortunately, the bullying and harassment did not end in 2022.

On Jan. 11 of this year, a classmate attacked her, damaging her personal property. A week later, this classmate stabbed Mary in the leg with a pencil four times. Fortunately, Mary was wearing jeans that prevented serious damage.

Did things get better in February? No. Not even a little bit, explained her father. 

Her family was notified that even though Mary is an honor student, she would not be able to attend a field trip with the other honor students. They were told it was because of her two demerits, although she only has 1.5—one of which has not been explained.

Family and friends sent e-mails asking the faculty why this was happening and what could be done to remedy the situation. Evidently, the school administration was too busy to help or reply throughout the week of the trip.

On Feb. 7, Mary was verbally attacked with hateful language by a couple of classmates. They called her various names, including “a dumb bitch N-word.” They actually said the word. She reported the incidents, and there were witnesses.

The family was later called by the school principal, who claimed that the school had conducted an investigation because students had said the N-word around this young Black girl.

“Around”? No. This word was used with the intent to hurt her, said her father. It didn’t just slip out in a conversation unrelated to her.

How and why could this situation get so downplayed? And, most important, as her father said, “How can you conduct a full investigation if you haven’t talked to the victim?”

On March 22, during her sixth period, two girls who sat behind Mary called her names such as “Black ass” and “special ed.” She turned around various times, telling them to stop and leave her alone.

Instead of supporting Mary, the teacher told her to stop “butting into” her classmates’ conversation. He suggested that she either follow his instructions or go to the office. She elected to go to the office to report the incident to the vice principal, who turned out not to be on campus.

Instead, she was given lunch detention.

There are sadly many more incidents of racism and discrimination this child and her family have endured thanks to classmates and faculty.

The family has tried endlessly to convey their concerns and have an honest conversation with Wilson Middle School faculty and the Chowchilla Elementary School District.

Endless phone calls and e-mails go unanswered. “We have tried everything to communicate with them, but they don’t want to listen,” shared her father. 

Their demands for change have fallen on deaf ears.

When the family does get a response from faculty they are all too quickly dismissed. From being told that he has an intimidating “Black preacher voice” to being told that his daughter might just be lying because “kids do that sometimes,” Mary’s father has heard it all. 

After reaching out to both the school and the school district many times, we received the following response: “Thank you for your inquiry. The District takes any discipline incident, allegations of racism, bullying or general harassment very seriously. We investigate each situation thoroughly. As needed, we counsel our students and follow our discipline policy. The school and district will not provide further comment.”—Superintendent Douglas J. Collins

The family is exploring legal options.


  • Paulina Cruz

    Paulina Cruz is a fellow with the Community Alliance newspaper. She is a Mexican immigrant currently attending Fresno State. She is currently working on an anthropology major with a minor in psychology. She spends her free time writing poetry or painting.

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