Your Stories: Welcome To America. Speak American.
These are the first hand accounts of the human cost of greed, corruption or bigotry in our country. We are not post-racial, women are not equals, homosexuals are still reviled, corporations ruin lives and justice is sometimes not only blind, but deaf and mute as well. We have a lot of work to do and it’s important that you know you are not working alone. Others share your pain and now they are willing to share it with the world.
From Reader V:
As a young girl, born in the United States, Costa Rican descent, I grew up in a very diverse neighborhood around the city of Boston. When it was time for me to start High School, my family moved from the city to the suburbs. It was nearly rural in my opinion…Cows, chickens? Deer and coyotes as neighbors????
Naturally I went to one of the regional high schools in the area. The first day of classes for me, was very ordinary. I obliviously went about my day peacefully, meeting new people, engaging in my work. Etc. It wasn’t until I walked into my Spanish class, that I noticed something that flew over my head entirely. The hallways, cafeteria, library and classrooms of that school were all about as white as an Alaskan landscape. Forgive me if that phrase offends anyone. But not a child or adult in that building was of color or of a different race. It was so intense, that even after I graduated, I realized they had marked me as “Caucasian White” and not “Hispanic” in their records. What I’ve been told, is that my light skin and green eyes allowed me to pass by as “Greek” so the following shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.
The second after I spoke a word of Spanish in that class, immediately the outburst of a moron jumping out of his desk beside me echoed through the classroom and down the hallway, “WOAH IT’S A MEXICAN!”
It wasn’t, “Oh, you must be Hispanic.” Or “Oh, where did you learn to speak this language?” or “Oh, you’re fluent already!” …No, it was the Latino version of an Amber Alert: The “Beaner Alert.”
I shouldn’t have been lazy. I should have signed up for Chinese…
As my time progressed, a handful of kids recognized me as the Latina. Between the very few friends I made, that became my nickname. I realized that the school wasn’t entirely white though. There were two brilliant African American teachers. We had a Chinese woman teaching Chinese. I believe as I got into my junior year, two or so Asian students began to attend, a biracial child as well. The only other Latina was a Spanish teacher that was dismissed. So no, the administration was not prejudice or discriminator with intentions of being so…but the word “minority” had a bright definition in this school.
Now, that doesn’t mean the children of conservative upper middle class Christians had to be like the administration.
I will say that I did have a few very conservative teachers who respected me to the fullest extent and taught me what they had to without any biases or cruel jokes. One of them tolerated my liberal behind so well, she made me cookies when I graduated. (They weren’t poisoned. I checked…..)
At the beginning when I was being analyzed by these children, I remained patient and shared my cultural knowledge because I assumed most of them have never left the Hundred Acre Woods (In a similar way that I had never left my little United Nations in Boston). But then things started getting ugly. Their assumptions were disrespectful, envy arose in certain classes, and the wannabe comedians were out of line. “What part of Mexico are you from? Is your dad a gardener? Omg do you own a sobrero?” (Those were the cute ones…)
I was raised to take shit from no one. But I also encouraged to be level headed. So no one ever rightfully attacked me in the beginning. There was an understanding between everyone that I would not allow them to bully me. (Though eventually they did..)
Cutting this unnecessarily long story short, most of what happened, happened during my last year in High School. I branched out that year and did as much as I could for causes I believed in. Specifically, I was the head of the Gay Straight Alliance that year. With the work we did that year, we got two students winning awards for the National No Name Calling competition, an assembly was led by us in which 3 children came out to their entire grade and I received a scholarship from the Greater Boston PFLAG. Some of our conservative children were not happy with these successes. Some felt envy, others felt annoyance, a few, disgust. (Yes, I said envy. Ever met a conservative lesbian? They do exist. I swear. Strangest thing ever.)
During the Tsunami-Earthquake tragedy in March, I began making a thousand paper cranes to send to Japan. The idea spread like crazy and soon I had about 100 other students helping me make the 1000 cranes. The project became school wide and it landed me in the front cover of a local newspaper. I did not expect this. (Whoops, there goes my anonymity)
A staff member of the school, I believe a janitor or a handy man (I am so sorry if that’s wrong) (he wasn’t Mexican by the way, sorry…) was so proud, he cut out the front page of the newspaper and put the picture of me and a friend up on a bulletin board in one of the busiest hallways. It wasn’t as if students hadn’t seen the paper already. Most of them had delivered home. But it caught more attention that way.
How do I know? Because the day after, as I walked by, I saw an image of a taco taped over my face.
We had announcements, in 8×11 sheets about the cranes around the school. A few were shoved in my locker with the words “Spic” written on them and others with “Go back to your own Country” and a few with “Speak American.”
I actually managed to spot a child wearing a shirt that, if I recall correctly, said “Welcome to America. Speak American.”
I don’t understand how that was allowed…
They loved calling me the wetback faggot by the way. My nickname went from Latina to “Gross Spic” as the year was coming to an end. The only reason I think that they held back on the LBGTQ charged insults, was because a lot of news coverage was given to suicides in regards to that. (For the record, I’m straight. And I am not Mexican. And there is nothing wrong with being a Mexican. Or LGBTQ.)
I did file many complaints. I think I hit the roof when I was walking through the cafeteria and a hard shelled taco hit the back of my head. Who it was, I don’t know. The people monitoring the cafeteria turned the other way. No one wants to get involved in something so messy. That upset me. But I think what upset me the most was that those little idiots didn’t even have the decency to hit me with a real taco. A burrito would have been a blessing.
If that wasn’t enough, during one of my classes, two girls began to humiliate me publicly and instead of sending Valentines, they pronounce their infatuation for me by verbally sending me back to Costa Rica. Yes, out loud, in class, in front of a very liberal instructor. (You know, I really would not have minded an actual round trip ticket to paradise…but they meant it to be one-way. So naturally I had to reject.)
I eventually started getting text messages too! Can you feel the love? The one that frightened me the most was “God Bless You and May He have mercy on you cause your ass deserves to get beaten for running your faggot propaganda.”
Ay Dios Mio…why are they so violent? (That one stands out because I received one similar to that recently. “I hope you get your ass beat for running your mouth.” Ah…haters gunna hate.)
I must have been such a nuisance to so many people. The administration was beyond annoyed with my complaints. I saw the dread in their expressions when they’d spot me walking into their office. And I swear it wasn’t often either. I was already too embarrassed by the entire ordeal and I am not a tattle taler to begin with. But there’s a difference between “She called me fat!” to “This racist bitch threw a taco at me and called me a beaner!” They made me feel like I was some insane, overly sensitive little girl who should run away and let it go, just get over it. I told myself that it wasn’t true, to keep fighting. In the end, the only thing that made me feel safe was that my father taught me how to throw a punch. And that’s just sad. (He was in the Army, relax. He’s no hoodlum.)
What these students were doing was unacceptable. I’m sorry if it made me seem like a self-centered little brat, but I go to school to be educated, not threatened, devalued and renamed. Why should I have to go to come home crying every day and put the effort into making false excuses and knowingly lie to my mother so she wouldn’t worry?
(Oh don’t get me started with her. My lovely mother has a broken English accent. We had to endure stares and sneers when we went food shopping up there…It got to a point where we just decided to drive 45 minutes into a more diverse city and food shop there.)
Anyways, those girls got slaps in the wrist and my openly known to be a conservative dung bag principle only apologized. But he didn’t apologize for the “attacks” he only apologized for the incident in class. These exact words are burnt into my memory, “Well, there’s nothing I can do. But I am sorry that the situation was handled that way. Now get to class.” Nothing was done about the Taco, or the notes, or the shirt, or the insults, or the girls, or the text.
I knew the people who had done it, but I couldn’t prove it, so case dismissed. I was indirectly told that I had to take that as a part of growing up.
I hold pity for one of the girls, because she said she was only saying what her parents often said and that’s what she believed. According to her, as an American, she had a right to free speech. And naturally, freedom of speech is freedom of oppression and freedom of hate. The poor thing. Hatred doesn’t run in our bloods through genetics.
Regardless, I didn’t feel that “justice” was served. Everyone that was out to hurt me got away with it. I am now a student at a very diverse university and I help run a small business in my home town. My younger brother is being home schooled because I do not want him going through what I went through and the high schools in the city where I now live are insane asylums. (If the students themselves want to run away and the dropout rate is over 50%, there’s something wrong there.)
It was difficult for me to comprehend how you can get suspended for skipping class, going on Facebook in school or cheating off a test, but it was completely okay to simply call someone a derogatory term. I didn’t tell my parents until after graduation. I didn’t call any advocacy groups because I was a month away from graduating when it all got bad. By the time the last blow was delivered I was already too exhausted from fighting these people. The only thing I could focus on was getting the hell out of there. I can’t speak for the other students of other ethnicity. But God, I hope they were able to manage.
To conclude, I can only say that all that happened did not disable me. It hasn’t and it never will. Perhaps I’m more sensitive to racial issues, but not weaker towards them. I don’t often share this story because I don’t find it necessary to give those people the time of day anymore, though I’d be nothing but a liar to say that it doesn’t haunt me from time to time. You may be angry, as my parents still are, because nothing was done. If anything can be done at this point, I’m not sure and I don’t care. All I know, as cliché as this might seem, I am a firm believer in Karma and she has delightfully kicked all of their asses. And hard. I’d share, but that’s a different story all together.
Is it any wonder that conservatives are the first to decry anti-bullying bills? No one ever gets bullied by atheists for believing in Jesus or by bilingual kids not speaking a second language. Conservativism is a form of child abuse. Teach them to hate when they are young and you’ll have a conservative voter for life.
If you want to share your story, contact me here. Your privacy is guaranteed if you choose to remain anonymous or you can shout it out to the world. The choice is yours. Don’t worry about being the greatest writer ever. Not everyone can be Shakespeare. Just tell your story and let the literary critics worry about themselves.