He had heard his white classmate throw an angry racial slur in his direction after an argument during a gym class game of speedball, and now the student was shoving him backward, refusing to retract the smear.
The white student swung first, hitting the 15-year-old with a punch to the mouth.
The 15-year-old heard his father’s voice running through his head: Fight only as a last resort, only in self-defence, only if given no choice, and only with the left hand – his weaker left hand.
His swing was short and compact, a left-handed dart that hit the white student square on the nose.
The nose broke under his fist, igniting a sequence of events – from arrest to suspension to possible expulsion – that has left the Asian student and his family wondering whether they are welcome in this small, rural and mostly white community north of Toronto, one that has been touched by anti-Asian attacks in the past.
The 15-year-old, the only person charged in connection with the April 21 school fight, faces one count of assault causing bodily harm.
But a remarkable thing happened this week. On Monday, 400 of his fellow students, wearing black in solidarity and carrying signs of support, walked out of Keswick High School to rally in protest in front of their school.
Organizer Mathew Winch, a Grade 12 student, said the school has fewer than 10 Asian students, but everyone wanted to stand up against bullying and racism.
After the public outcry, the York Regional Police hate crimes unit reopened the case. Although the other student has not been charged…
The town, the region, has a history of racist crime especially against Asian immigrants. That doesn’t explain away inaction by school officials and the police. They are charged with being above bigotry – whether it feels good or not.
It’s about time for them to start acting like representatives of a free country.
UPDATE: The school board has revoked the boy’s suspension.