What do you do when your child comes home from school and tells you about all the blatant racism she experienced at school that day? Racism is nothing new but I’ve never had it directed so closely at my children. Wait, let me clarify, no one called my daughter a “Beaner”, “Wetback” or “Spic”; none of the common slurs you get when you are a little Mexican kid. No, my daughters, like myself, are very fair skinned and they actually look more Nordic than South American. They have blondish hair and blue eyes. Nothing about them screams, “I am Mexican hear me roar.” But they will tell you, in no uncertain terms, “Yo soy Mexicana, escuchame…..ROAR!!!!”
The thing is when you look Caucasian, people don’t worry about what they say around you. They think that you shouldn’t be offended because when they are insulting your culture and your race, they are not actually insulting “YOU” because to them, you are different (you get a pass) because you look the same as them. Let me tell you what, that’s even worse. Casual racism where you tell me that I shouldn’t be offended because you weren’t referring to “my kind of Mexican” is beyond insulting. People always expect Latinos to be “more Latino” or, in my case, more obviously Latino.
I’ve experienced this kind of attitude my entire life due to my white skin. My mom is Caucasian, so technically I am half European Caucasian (with a twist of Cherokee) but I am also half Mexican. And, as anyone of color will tell you because we know this firsthand, if you are brown or black in any amount, to most Caucasians, you are “other” because you’re not 100% Caucasian so I’ve always just embraced it. I refuse to deny who I am, where I come from or the fact that on my dad’s side, I am first generation Mexican-American. That makes my daughters with their alabaster skin, blue eyes and blonde hair, second generation Mexican-American. We are proud of this, as we should be but then, every once in a while, especially in today’s politically charged, infused with extra hatred and bigotry environment, we are slapped across the face with the feeling of others trying to make us feel small and less than. Yes, even today in 2016.
Not to bring Donald Trump into this but honestly, he has broken the dam of the shame of racism that most polite societies had been adhering to. He has come in like a hurricane and ripped all politically correct walls down and made it not only acceptable but in some cases even applaudable to be prejudiced. Racism, xenophobia, and bigotry are running rampant under the guise of national pride and patriotism. I’m here to tell you that it’s not acceptable and never will be. It’s still just as disgusting as it ever was and now that the Trump trickle-down effect has directly involved my children, we have a problem and I’m ready to fight.
Which brings me to a couple recent situations that happened to my daughters at school recently. I’m pretty tolerant. I know that children sometimes regurgitate things they’ve heard at home without knowing what it really means. I also am painfully aware that hatred is taught not born. My girls know this as well and they readily afford their fellow students the benefit of the doubt but when they hear a prejudiced joke or comment made they also readily volunteer the information that they are Mexican and that those particular comments are offensive to them. In my house, we always think to ourselves, what would we allow someone to say to Grandpa Manny? If it would hurt him, it hurts us.
Last Wednesday, my daughter came home from a field trip, that my husband attended with her, and told me that the other kids in our car were telling her and one another that they were “voting for Donald Trump” and “Hillary Clinton wants to kill babies.” They went on to say that they wanted Trump to win so he could build a wall and “keep the Mexicans out!” Before my husband had the chance to say a word, my 9-year-old informed the children, “You know that I’m a girl and I’m Mexican.” (My 9-year-old doesn’t understand why anyone would vote for a racist misogynist, especially other women.) To which the kids answered, “Well, I knew you were a girl but I didn’t know you were MEXICAN!” My daughter’s answer, “Well, now you do.”
I don’t know about you but I find it very disturbing that parents are at home telling their kids that Hillary Clinton wants to kill babies and I’m personally offended that these children want to keep Mexicans out like we are some kind of criminal, lower life forms. It also disturbs me that my children are surrounded by such blatant racist every day.
On Friday, my daughter jumped in the car at pick-up and told me another disturbing tale of fourth-grade racism.
A group of children was talking and said that they hope Trump wins so he can keep the Mexicans out because they (Meaning Mexicans) are part of ISIS and the part of the reason the Twin Towers were attacked. What? Has the world gone mad?
Take a moment to soak that last statement in. Does it disturb you to your core too? Because the sheer magnitude of the ignorance of that statement frightened me. If these children think Mexicans are terrorists couldn’t that prejudice them against the Latino children at the school? I know there is only a handful of but still. My point is this, the entire discussion was inappropriate and factually incorrect. Mexicans are not Islamic terrorists. All Muslims are not terrorists. And it was Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden who were responsible for the twin towers and 9/11, not the Mexicans; not a race or a culture but a group of terrorist extremist. Why are these parents teaching their children to hate people who don’t look, act, and talk exactly like they do?
Apparently, these children have confused Mexicans and Islamic terrorists. I know the skin tones can be a little confusing if you are not exposed to a diverse group of people but either way, these children are regurgitating racism and xenophobia; neither of which I feel are appropriate or should be tolerated in life and certainly not at the school.
I’m not normally one to email the school with every single infraction or indiscretion. I am an active parent volunteer at the school and I support their mission, that’s why I enrolled my daughters in the school, but this kind of behavior cannot stand. I had to say something. There has to be a zero-tolerance policy for this sort of behavior. These situations warrant a discussion with the children and they need to know in no uncertain terms that prejudice and hatred are not okay on any level. We need to teach the children tolerance and acceptance of differences, not persecution and prejudice.
This election has given people a false belief that it is their right to be judgmental and a false sense of justification in racial profiling and it’s become uncomfortable on a very personal and basic level. I don’t want my daughters thinking there is something fundamentally wrong with being Latino nor do I want them to feel ashamed or like they are being judged or put in danger simply for being born with Latino blood in their body.
I realize that my daughters look Caucasian and may not experience blatant racism as frequently as some other children who have more obvious Latino features but it is sometimes just as uncomfortable being the whitest Mexican in the room, especially when racist comments are being thrown around and you know all the people that you love most in the world are being denigrated. I don’t want my children feeling ashamed of who they are because other children are being taught racism and hatred at home.
I don’t know about you but I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to myself but if you insult or injure my children, you will have me to contend with and I won’t let it go because it is my job to protect my children. If that means I have to hurt someone’s feeling by pointing out that their bad behavior will not be tolerated, then so be it.
What would you have done if your child was experiencing racism at school?