Toby was some kid in my third grade class who was always the butt of every joke. He was often accused of picking his nose (I’d busted him digging for gold on occasion so I thought this accusation was warranted), he was the only kid who couldn’t swing across the monkey bars (n00b), and his name was fucking Toby. I’ve never seen so many children act out the whipping scene from Roots. “What’s yer name?” “TOBAY!” We were some cultured little shit birds, I guess. Thank you, Mr. Uyeda, for letting us watch Roots for Black Heritage Month.
One thing led to another and Toby was no longer Toby; he was Kunta Kinte. I can’t even make this shit up. Some other kid in my class who obviously wasn’t very memorable because I can’t recall his name, walked up to Toby, grabbed his homework, and demanded that Toby erase his name and write Kunta Kinte on it. I don’t think anyone even knew how to spell that shit (hell, I had to Google “Roots main character” just a few minutes ago to make sure I had it right).
Things came to a head for little Toby. The Name Nazi made his rounds to Toby’s desk everyday to make sure “Koonta Kintay” was written at the top of his assignments and the nose-picking induced teasing continued with a voracious fervor, often ending with Toby crying.
One day after lunch, while everyone was quietly reading, Toby stood up and walked to the front of the classroom, behind the small desk where we turned in our homework and kept communal school supplies. “My name… isn’t Toby…” he said with a very measured and even tone, so unlike his nervous squeaks.
“Yeah, it’s Kunta.” There was a barrage of snickering.
“No. It’s… NOT… KUNTAAAAAA!” The snickering stopped. There was silence as we watched the shit show unfold. Even Mr. Uyeda looked up from his grade books. Toby grabbed his head and ripped out a handful of his hair and threw it into the air.
“I’M RAD TOBY NOW!” He snatched up the stapler and brought it down onto his hand.
“OH MY GAWD! HE STAPLED HIS HAND!”
“HE RIPPED OUT HIS HAIR!”
There was mass hysteria in the classroom. Kids were screaming, desks were overturned, one kid threw up while another slipped on it… and there stood Rad Toby at the front of the classroom with his rapidly swelling and bruising hand, tears welling at the corners of his eyes with a stoic grimace on his face. He was indeed very rad and was addressed as such from then on.