A Student Response From:
When I was a kid, I was kicked out of my fifth-grade class. In the old days there was forced integration and when it ended, my mom opted to have us remain at the all-white school we were bussed to, instead of the school back in the hood where we lived. One day I had to write an essay on a prominent public figure, someone that we looked up to, and I chose a certain Mexican baseball player. When I told my teacher, a Latina, who I was going to write about, she scolded me and said I should pick an “American” athlete. I was old enough to understand that she was inferring that I should write about a white guy. She berated me in front of the class with stories of how hard her assimilation was and how grateful she was to be able to go to a prominent school and what that kind of degree could mean for someone like myself. I, obviously, wasn’t impressed with her struggle for whiteness, I had an attitude problem, and when she suggested I write about the Olympian Bruce Jenner I rolled my eyes and flat out refused. I was promptly kicked out of class and my mom had to come pick me up. On the ride back to our side of town, my mom tried to explain that the lady probably experienced a lot of trauma as a brown person, and that’s why her titles meant so much to her. At that age I hadn’t grasped the concept of emotional intelligence but, going to all white schools taught me about how some situations were meant to trigger a response from me and I should probably get used to it and learn to play the game, but I was in the fifth grade and wasn’t impressed. What was I supposed to do? Maybe the teacher and I should have pulled our pants down to see who had the bigger trauma? I don’t know. My mom went on for a while, trying to explain assimilation, but she could see I wasn’t buying it. She smiled to herself and, to my surprise, asked me what was wrong with playing along with what these people wanted. Maybe I could just pretend, so that I could get the same education as the affluent kids. I turned to her and said “F**k” Bruce Jenner and we both laughed hard. All she could do was shake her head and say “Aye mijo”. I think she really didn’t want to be at work that day anyway. The next day I found that I had been transferred to another class with an awesome teacher, a lady who encouraged me to be myself. Things turned out okay.