As Kristi drove home from track practice, she grew more and more incensed.
The Nordonia High student couldn't believe what she was hearing on Opie and Anthony, a talk radio show built on the concept that people adore being offended. The topic for November 28: slave reparations.
A caller named Tina was ranting about how "crackers" earned their fortunes off the backs of black people. "We were forced to come here," Kristi recounts Tina saying. "We were chained and shackled. We suffered. We did the labor. You didn't earn anything."
The "we versus you" talk made the wiry 17-year-old defensive. When she got home, she logged onto her MySpace account and began to fire up her own sentiments on race. The title of her post: "dumb black broad."
"Wait bitch -- are you fucking superwoman?" she wrote in response to Tina. "Were you alive 200 years ago? Do you honestly fucking believe that you deserve anything at all because your great, great, great uncle's fourth cousin's brother-in-law was a fucking slave? Kill yourself."
By the end, she'd spit forth 600 words of outrage, dropped the N-bomb nine times, and claimed "98 percent of blacks were ignorant."
"If you get fucking reparations, I expect some reparations," she wrote. "Because us white people get our stores robbed and we get shot up by your nigger fucking gangs EVERY DAMN DAY."
It may have been dismissed as just another rant on MySpace, where teenage angst spills like raw sewage into Lake Erie. But History According to Kristi didn't sit well with fellow students. "Don't go to school tomorrow," one classmate responded. "Get a squad car at the house. I feel bad for you."
The next day, students distributed printouts of her blog. "The whole school was talking about it," says one. "It was 'Hey, did you hear about [Kristi's] MySpace blog? You gotta read it! Everyone has a copy!' There were like 150 copies floating around school."
Kristi, who declined to be interviewed, began receiving threats. People suggested she kill herself or move out of state. Her house was egged. Even people who don't go to Nordonia were asking where she lived.
"A lot of people were mad," says student Katie Winstead. "Even some white people. Some thought she deserved it, and others felt pity for her. Some didn't care. Some rooted her on. Some wanted to beat her up."
With a simple click of her mouse, Kristi had unwittingly ruptured a dam of racial tension.
Until recently, Nordonia High had been almost entirely white, serving the small suburbs that litter northern Summit County, like Macedonia and Boston Heights.
"My freshman year, I remember like three black people in my homeroom," says Debbie Reville. "But now, there are a gajillion people moving in, moving up. People are coming from Maple Heights, trying to get out of the city."
Though Nordonia remains predominantly white, the recent influx of black students has been unsettling for both races.
One student expressed concern that all white people probably felt the same way as Kristi, but just kept quiet. "It makes it hard to trust my white friends," he says. "What if they're thinking it and just not saying it? People are good at hiding their ignorance. They don't understand where we come from. That's why they're ignorant."
Another student said she chose her words very carefully around black students, worried they were easily offended. "It isn't all the black students, but there are some that threaten to beat the crap out of you if you just run into them in the halls. They scare me."
School officials quickly suspended Kristi, claiming it was for her own safety. (District spokeswoman Patti Koslo didn't respond to multiple interview requests.)
Kristi promptly removed her first post, replacing it with a half-hearted apology. "I'm not saying that I take back everything I said," she wrote. "I still stand behind some. Yea, I don't like a lot of black people. But is it fair for me to generalize a whole race because of a handful I've witnessed. No. Did I exaggerate stuff? Yea. 98% ignorant. My bad."
Her new words did little to soothe classmates. "People still want to fight her," says freshman Courtney Scott. "She shouldn't come back [to school] or she's jeopardizing her life."
But for better or worse, Kristi's blog also ignited a frank debate about race that would never be entertained in a classroom.
There are now more than 200 comments, ranging from the philosophical to the petty. Kids are musing about the effects of words like "nigger" and "cracker." They're sharing experiences, elaborating on the roots of their own racism, having arguments about history and politics.
Some offer advice like "just smoke a blunt," while others quote Gandhi. One person will ask, "where's the love?" Another will respond, "the love died a long time ago."
In some ways, Kristi's blog has provided a better education than Nordonia could ever provide. But she hasn't returned to class. There remain fists pounding into palms, anticipating her return. The hallways echo her name.
A student from Brush High in Lyndhurst offered the best observation on Kristi's blog.
"Brush used to be an all white school," the girl wrote. "Now its roughly 50-50. Rarely is there interracial confrontation. But my teacher said that back in the day when Brush was first starting to be integrated, there were many fights and racial controversies and he figured that Nordonia was just going through the same thing . . . Use what [Kristi] wrote as fuel to do GOOD not BAD."
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