During lunchtime, this student sees a fight break out after someone yells “Fuck Niggers” and manages to stay out of the violent outbreak. The principal suspended an African-American and a Hispanic boy, which, instead of solving the problem, only made tensions between the two groups stronger.
Despite the principal’s attempt to blame no member of a particular ethnicity for the conflict, the school’s reaction to racial fighting proves impractical, demonstrating the difficulty of stemming such deep-rooted rivalry and hatred.
After school, the student sees another fight break out when the bus arrives at the bus stop: African-Americans against Hispanics. In the end, the group of twenty African-American boys is forced to get off the bus and, while they are waiting for the next one, they start beating a Hispanic boy who happened to walk by, unaware of what had just happened. The student watches as the boy is left unconscious and the group of attackers is arrested. He wonders why he didn’t do anything to stop the violence, and realizes that he was too scared of being hit himself. He feels scared that Ms. Gruwell will get mad at him if she finds out he was not self-reliant in this moment, and he hopes she never will.
The violence here plays out independently of provocation or wrongdoing, as skin color is sufficient to turn someone into the next victim of race-related violence. This student’s reckoning with his passivity reveals his sense of accountability toward Ms. Gruwell. While it is unlikely that Ms. Gruwell would actually get mad at him, his fear of such a reaction demonstrates the power of Ms. Gruwell’s teaching—as well as, at times, its practical limitations, as she cannot teach her students how to behave morally in all situations.