Saturday, November 22, 2008

Big sigh

Two articles from the NY Times this week about New York teenagers who went out to attack a "Mexican" and ended up killing an Ecuadorian man.

It hits pretty close to home given what's been going on in my school this year. I don't think I wrote about what happened around Halloween, when one of our students came dressed up as a "Mexican," wearing a sombrero, a fake mustache, and some kind of rug, and the administration didn't have a problem with his costume. We have a few Latino kids in the school, we have first and second generation immigrants from all over the world, and we have a pretty substantial number of students who have said things like "illegal aliens should be executed at the border!"

The issue keeps coming up, and it is becoming more and more clear that it's something we need to deal with as a school. Our students come from families that have been hit hard by the economic downturn, and for a lot of them it is a very appealing narrative that "others" are to blame.

But the part that has been giving me the most ulcers is how other staff members have reacted. I've made my peace with the Spanish teacher who thinks there's nothing wrong with gross racial stereotypes - we have agreed to disagree on this point, but at least the students know we respect one another. The big problem is teachers - and ADMINISTRATORS - who have been pushing the problem onto me, because they don't want to be the bad guy.

These problems aren't going away. Just the other day a Latina kid ran out of my class crying after another student said "the Mexicans are taking our jobs!" There's only so much I can do alone, and the kids have stopped listening to me already. I think it's only a matter of time before something terrible happens like what happened in Long Island.

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