“I don’t like Mexicans,” said one of my Guatemalan students (Car Boy).
“Why do you say that,” I asked.
Well, this kid, that I don’t like, kicked me in the ‘nads yesterday.
“Ok,” I said, “What does that have to do with Mexican people.
“Well, this kid is Mexican,” he said.
“So, let me get this straight. You are saying that you don’t like all Mexican people just because one kid, who happens to be Mexican, kicked you in the ‘nads? Is that what you’re saying?” I asked.
“Yes, I can’t stand him.”
It was at this point that my student from El Salvador (Warrior Boy) echoed the same sentiment. He was harboring resentment regarding Mexico’s refusal to admit El Salvadoran refugees in the late 80’s. I told him I know that Mexican officials wouldn’t let El Salvadorans into their country during the war in El Salvador, but that was a long time ago. That was before he were born, but his family keeps the tradition of hating Mexico alive & well.
“You have to let it go,” I told him. You can’t hold onto something like that. I told him that I wasn’t saying that his parents & grandparents didn’t have a right to be angry about that, but that you can’t let hate control you.
The conversation went on for a full 20 minutes as I tried to tell Car Boy, that he didn’t like the mean kid that kicked him in the ‘nads because he was a mean kid that just happened to be Mexican, not because he was Mexican. They didn’t get it. So, this morning, we had a discussion about me, Hitler, sticking your head in the sand, the Jesuit belief, & me. I told them that it wasn’t enough to just change their attitude, but that they could not allow someone around them to live with prejudices too. We discussed how Hitler was able to do so much damage because so many people stuck their head in the sand. We also talked about the Jesuit tradition of helping others and the strong belief in social justice.
We then talked about me & my brown skin. Well, why aren’t you talking about me? I’m sure you’ve said something about Black people before. You’re really comfortable telling me about Mexican people, but what if I were Hispanic? Would you feel really comfortable telling me about how you dislike Black people, or that all Black people steal?
“Miss, that’s not what I’m saying,” he said, flustered. I’m just saying I don’t like Mexicans.
“Well, Cute Cheeks & Chipmunk are Mexican. Are you telling me that you hate them too?
I asked Warrior Boy if he met the perfect girl, but she happened to be Mexican, would he not be with her. He had no answer. I continued to reason with them, but they are only in 5th grade. I’ll apprise the 6th grade teacher of the situation & maybe she can work on them next year. This is one of the reasons why prejudice persists.
I will continue trying to get through to them until the last day of school. I was so frustrated I had to move on. So to wrap it all up, I gave them the journal question, How Am I Going To Help Stop Prejudice?
I hope I made some kind of headway. I don’t think so, but I hope so!