In the Punch Line

Facing Racism in Muncie, Indiana

Jayla Scaife’s story written by Travis Graves

Jayla is 18 years old

They always make jokes about Whitely, where I live, and how it’s the ghetto, broken down, and the worst place in Muncie, which it’s not. They don’t care what they say, they’ll say whatever. No matter who’s around, they’ll make jokes in class.

Our teachers say they don’t know how to discipline them ‘cause the jokes aren’t that bad. Every time race is talked about in class it gets turned into jokes. We were watching some video in our government class about how we shouldn’t label people based on their skin color, and thirty seconds after the video was over they were making jokes about the black person in the video. I hated the Black Lives Matter movement because it just turned into jokes and they would say “all lives matter,” “all lives matter.”

Really, I’m not amused by any attention brought to race and racism because it always gets turned into some joke that isn’t true and isn’t funny and doesn’t help. Most recently during Black History Month our teacher was planning on taking us on a field trip to the Capitol building in Indy for some Black History Month event. A few weeks before the field trip, one student counted the black kids in class. It was just me and another mixed boy. He started telling the teacher for everyone to hear we shouldn’t have to go because there were only two black kids. Because of this I really didn’t even want to go on the field trip knowing I would be made a target for mocking. One of the main guy’s that makes these jokes is a youth leader in a popular student Christian group at the school–a group that I’m also a part of. He’s actually gone on a mission trip to Africa and came back saying “we should help them,” but then also makes jokes about how dark they were. I don’t know what point he’s trying to make with his jokes, but they weren’t funny, and then he tried to apologize for it but his apology was more like he was sorry that I didn’t have a sense of humor.

I’ve always gone to schools that don’t have that many black people, so I’ve been used to not having students around who were like me. There are quite a few black students at Central High School, but not in the advanced placement classes that I’m in.

I never really caught on to the jokes that were made when I was younger, ‘cause they kinda went over my head, but as I got older I’ve caught on to the jokes people were making and took offense to them and have taken them personally, and I’m not expecting it to be better next year when I’m at college.

In the Punch Line by Travis Graves

Your words

like flying fists

lay hard against me

and everyday I remain

waiting to receive

the dagger

in my gut, on my chest.

Cautious I move

I sit and slowly eat

so not to insight a thing

as you begin to speak

my throat seizes and I must think

to swallow so I won’t choke

when you strike

and I lose my human dignity.

Every day I can see it coming

and tomorrow will be the same

an oppressive reminder

I’m not your equal

my place you find me fit

Is in the punch line.

This story originally appeared in Facing Racism in Muncie, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by R.A.C.E. Muncie in Muncie, Indiana.

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