Saturday, February 16, 2013

Racism Occurs In Many Ways, All Are Rooted In Ignorance

Dear Tazi:

I am a teenage girl of mixed heritage. My mother is white and my father is Latino. I grew up bilingual, and speak Spanish as well as I speak English, even though I rarely speak Spanish outside the home. I am very light skinned, and do not look much like my father at all, but it never occurred to me that people did not know that I am biracial. My last name gives no clues because it has been Americanized.

I started high school in September, and all students must take Spanish as a part of the curriculum. I am excelling in the subject, even though there are many differences between the Spanish being taught and the Spanish that I speak at home. We are learning "mainland Spanish" and I speak "Latin American Spanish", and I do not consider the two the same language - I guess it is kind of like American English and British English.

My school has parent-teacher conferences at different parts of the school year, and my Mom usually goes to these because my Dad is working. This past time, though, my Dad and Mom went together to the conference and my teachers all saw that my father is of a different race than my mother. Most of my teachers thought nothing of it, but some of them are making a big deal out of it, assuming things that are not true, like the idea that I had to overcome a disadvantaged background or that English is not my native language, and have been treating me differently. My Spanish teacher even made the comment that she now knows why I am picking up on Spanish so easily.

Tazi, I was born into a hard-working middle class family. I have not had to overcome poverty and I work hard to earn all of my good grades - even the ones I get in Spanish class! I am not sure how to respond when my teachers give me a pitying look or make a comment about how I have come so far in life. They obviously know nothing about my life! I have been taught to respect my elders, especially teachers, but this is getting hard to do when they are acting estupido! How do you suggest I deal with this, Tazi? My friends tell me to just roll my eyes and walk away, but that seems rude.

Alicia in Atlanta

Dear Alicia in Atlanta:

My last trip to Atlanta was several years ago (I stowed away in Mommie's luggage), but while there I recall hearing that the Latino community is the largest growing community in Greater Atlanta. this would make sense because it is also the largest growing demographic in the United States. Sadly, in Atlanta as it is in many areas, many of these Latinos were on the lower economic rungs of society in spite of their tremendous work ethic. If this is still the case, I can see why your teachers would make false assumptions about your background. It isn't right - not by a long shot - but it is human nature. Everybody loves a success story!

The next time a teacher makes a comment or gives a look alluding to the idea that, like Steve Martin in The Jerk, you overcame humble beginnings to reach greatness, offer a smile and a head shake to let them know that they are on the wrong track. If more is needed, explain what you have said here: that you were born into a middle-class family and have been fortunate not to experience struggles harder than fifth period Algebra (or whichever class gives you the most trouble). In the especial case of your Spanish teacher, should she say something again politely respond that you have grown up speaking a dialect, and that there are many differences between the Spanish you know and the Spanish you are learning. You might want to add that hard work on the part of both of you has resulted in good grades, but do so in private lest your classmates think you are a besador de tope!


P.S. Mi mama me está enseñando a español! ¿Cómo suena?

Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

1 comment: