May 19, 2019
The need for a diverse group in the Honors and AP classes is necessary to Chang because she feels that in discussions on identity and race, “it is all white people discussing something cultural and racial identity.”
This feeling stems from multiple occurrences where she shares her culture and identity, but the wrong people seem to be “discussing if they are real or not.”
This invalidation of identity and experience forces many minority students to consider, and often complete, the process of dropping out of certain classes or academies. For example, Garcia loves math and was on the Honors route until she decided to stop because she had met some individuals that “would always talk about some unnecessary racist things.” She was discouraged from moving forward, as the class did not feel like a safe environment for her.
Claudio recalls a similar experience where she “heard this white kid call his friend a beaner”— a derogatory anti-Mexican slur.
“It happened so quickly and passing through the halls,” Claudio states. It is not the first time she had heard the disparaging term. Soriano added on, saying that even if those two people are friends, there should never be any justification for using the word in any context.
Claudio also finds the student complaint of not wanting “to take Spanish [class]” as offensive to Spanish speakers, as the language is part of their identity.
“Well, congratulations on making someone else feel bad because of the way that they grew up,” Claudio exclaimed. “That is someone’s language. That’s someone’s culture.”
“I remember when I was talking with [Garcia] in Spanish, and this senior was like, ‘you are in America so speak English,’” Soriano told the group, recalling the shock of this racist remark.
She did not bother confronting the individual who made the statement, but it was her first experience with that level of racism.
Claudio spoke about an experience of ignorance when she was asked what something meant in Spanish. This made her feel like her background was being assumed solely based on her appearance.
“There is more to a person than just their appearance. We have so much to offer, and we have more to offer than just our cultural background,” Beharry said.
“I’m not your translator, so don’t ask me,” Claudio said. Garcia added that people have done the same to her, stereotyping her based on her accent. Unlike Claudio, she doesn’t mind translating but rather the assumption that led to the question.
Beharry shared a similar experience in which someone asked him, “‘You are close to the custodians, right? We are just too scared to talk to them. Like you are close to them, so can you ask them something for us?’”
He was frustrated that the assumption was made simply because of a similar ethnic minority background.
Their examples of stereotyping were not solely centered outside of the classroom, but within its walls. While seniors read “I am Joaquin,” an epic poem about the 1960s Chicano movement, in their English classes, Beharry remembered “a lot of people looking towards the kids who were brown.”
“Just because they come from the same background, doesn’t mean they know that,” Beharry commented. “It’s something that you can’t necessarily assume all the time.”
This is not a one-time experience. Beharry feels like “whenever it comes to a conversation about ethnicity or race, everyone automatically turns to all the brown kids.” Moreover, as discussed earlier, the minorities typically sit together, so stares go to one side of the room.
Thus, as Claudio puts it, stereotyping “becomes a problem when people look at you differently” because you look a certain, stereotyped way. Furthermore, she feels that sometimes the way people talk about ethnicity “makes it really insensitive.”
As an optional form of solving the issue of students making ignorant comments, the group proposed that teachers could intervene and start a healthy discussion on why a comment may be unnecessary. After all, it is not easy to understand the viewpoint of an individual, but helping to mitigate ignorant comments goes a long way.