My 12-year-old son is not a “mexican taco,” and he is not going to be “deported back over the wall.” Unfortunately, some of the children in his middle school would disagree. In particular, a group of 8th grade boys that enjoy teasing my 6th grader during morning breakfast. Carl is one of the few Puerto Rican children in our town.
And then there was the boy on his football team who called him “n—er” after Carl tackled him in practice. Our son is a great linebacker and he always makes his tackle. He keeps pushing long after others have quit. Carl is an absolute football star. So when someone is upset in practice? They say the one thing they (think they can) can say about him. Middle school kids will pick out that one difference and exploit it.
My son is left with nightmares, headaches, and developing school-avoidant behaviors. Additionally, he has been acting out in school. For a child with C-PTSD, feeling unsafe triggers a fight/flight response. Our son is a fighter. He fights with lockers. He tries to be the class clown. He runs out of class. In short, Carl tries to be known for anything other than his brownness.
How on earth do I handle something like this? I’m a white mom raising hispanic kids in a mostly white town. In all honesty I can never really understand. I will never really know what this feels like. But I can tell you what it feels like to pick up my sobbing son after practice. It fills me with a fiery rage at the ignorant parents of these ignorant kids.
My husband and I complained to the middle school. We requested a full investigation. The following is the vice principal’s response:
VP: Well when I asked Carl about this he said it doesn’t bother him. The other children say he told them it was OK to call him “taco.” They admitted to saying some things but he told them it was OK.
VP: You know, this is Carl’s responsibility. If he feels uncomfortable with these comments then we would expect him to tell the other children why this makes him uncomfortable. Especially at this age.
Me: Excuse me? It is not the job of one of the few hispanic children in the school to educate the white children how to behave. This would be the job of the educators such as yourself!!!!
VP: Well then we would expect him to tell a trusted adult. He could have come to me, especially if this has been going on for months.
Me: You and I may consider you to be a “trusted adult.” But why would a 12-year-old assume that a white man would understand this problem and take it seriously? In fact, I don’t think you are taking it seriously at all.
VP: Well Carl has been saying mean things as well. It’s not just the other children picking on him. When boy X called him a “taco” his reply was, “Well at least my parents aren’t cousins!”
Me: (Using every ounce of self-control not to retort, “Well ARE they cousins?!”) Did he use a racial slur?
Me: OK then. This matter is about racism. It is about a pervasive racial bias in the school climate. What are you going to do to educate these students about racism and racial slurs? In what ways are you attempting to educate staff such as yourself?
VP: This isn’t about racism. It is about respect. It is about respect from all sides.
Me: No. It is about addressing racist remarks and educating kids about racism and racial slurs.
VP: Well one of the boys making comments actually has some ethnicity in his background.
Me: Umm….?!?@%?@??? Yes I am aware. The boys is half Mexican and he is terrified to come-out as such to the other students. It is a school climate problem when you have a secretly Mexican child who feels the need to hide.
VP: Well I have to worry about all the students. Respect is my concern. Racism is only a part of it.
Me: I need to hear you say you will address racism.
VP: As a part of it, yes, we will address racism.
We went around like this for about 45 minutes. He believes that Carl’s own behavior is bringing this on himself. I asked him if women who are raped are “asking for it” based on what they are wearing. He had no comment other than to reiterate Carl should be directly telling the older boys to stop. I asked if girls who were the victims of sexual harassment were expected to immediately stand up to the aggressor lest it be “their fault.” He said he absolutely expected them to do so.
I. Have. No. Words.
Oh wait–yes I do have some words. I have enough to write this blog post. Then I have some leftover to bring to a meeting we are having involving the entire school team. I requested the d**n meeting and invited the superintendent, principal, and VP. No way, no how is this going to fly. I have enough words to tell them in tomorrow’s meeting they are violating state laws regarding our son’s civil rights. And I WILL file a complaint with the state department of education if this matter is not resolved.
I will always fight for my son. Do NOT cross this mama-bear. I may never have experienced this, it’s true. Only my Puerto Rican husband can truly (sadly) relate to this treatment. I never will experience it first hand. But I will do my best to ensure that my son doesn’t experience it either. I may not be able to protect him from the whole world. But so help me I will protect him from ignorant administrators!
**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.