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Yes, I'm In A Clique
Nathan Black is a freshman at Arapahoe High School in Littleton,
The following article originally appeared on the Op-Ed page (A29) of The New York Times on
April 29, 1999.
There are 193 independent countries on the face of the earth. And in the city of Littleton,
Colorado, there must be at least as many independent cliques.
Each of these groups is as autonomous as any sovereign nation. The members sit together, eat together,
go out together, and in this time of sorrow, often grieve together.
Contrary to the current beliefs of many adults, cliques are not an entirely negative aspect of the high school
social structure. Cliques are rarely as generic as they are made out to be. Yes, there are definite
distinctions between the jocks, the band members and the skaters. But I would not consider myself part
of the "band clique," because even though I am a member of the large group, I don't like everyone in it,
and not everyone likes me. I may have friends who play sports or have been elected to Student Council,
but I am not by any means in the "popular" group.
The authentic cliques are much smaller, more unique groups of friends who have often been together since
middle school or earlier. My own clique, of perhaps 10 to 15 people, consists of people I have known
since I moved to Littleton in seventh grade.
When I am around this small group, I can let go of the inhibitions that I cling to in the presence of other,
less important friends or acquaintances. What are they going to do if I say something stupid? They can roll
their eyes or make a comment, but they can't shut me out because I am an integral part of the group.
In this clique, it is safe and O.K. to be myself. Such a security blanket gives me the confidence to try new
things. Not everyone in my group is on the journalism staff, or plays in the band, or sings in my church
choir. But because the good times in my clique have convinced me that I am an O.K. person, I can take
risks and get involved outside my group without worrying - very much - about failure. There will always
be my closest circle of friends to fall back on.
Not everyone is as lucky as I am. One of the identifying traits of any clique is that some people belong,
and some don't. By excluding the outsiders, the members of a clique feel secure, even superior to those
they are shutting out.
That is not to say I think it’s right to ridicule the people I think are nerds. While some cliques may go to
extremes that border on outright discrimination, by high school, exclusivity is much more subtle; if I don't
like someone, I ignore him. That way, he’ll never even want to belong to my group because he doesn’t
know what we’re like.
We are not the only clique guilty of this exclusivity; every group does it, whether it means to or not. Even
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the young men who killed 13 at Columbine High School and then killed
themselves, must have left people out of their trench coat mafia. It was not the idea of cliques that pushed
them over the edge; they were obviously very disturbed and used jocks as an excuse to take out their
insanity on everyone around them.
Cliques can be perceived as helpful or hurtful. But they are nothing more, and nothing less, than natural.
A link to Nathan Black's web site: The Writing Samples Of Nathan Black "This page contains a
collection of manuscripts and short stories, which I wrote in the past two years. They are posted in the
hopes that a publisher or agent will be interested in my work. However, anyone is invited to read the
stories, and give constructive criticism on both them and the site. Feel free to e-mail me at
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