SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2007 Personal Memory Ethnographies
La Gringa MexicanaIt was third period, Earth Science class, my Freshman year of high school. The classroom was filled with rocks in jars stacked on the shelves on the walls. There must have been hundreds of different colored rocks and I couldn’t help staring at them when I got near them. I remember the class room being extremely cold, which is why I had on my blue sweatshirt. It was so uncomfortably cold that I kept getting goose bumps.
I have always been a rather quiet girl, so no one in class really knew too much about me. As the teacher began to assign everyone their lab stations, I hoped I would be paired with someone that I would get along with, preferably female (at the time I was very shy around guys). Then it happened, I was assigned to table 8, in the back- with all boys. Apparently they were all friends, so I was the odd girl out. At least we had one thing in common I thought, “We are all Hispanic…maybe they’ll think I’m cool.”
My name is Enrique. I walked into third period Earth Science class to see that 3 of my friends were in the same class. Luckily, I was assigned to the same lab group as they, as well as some girl I had never seen before. She was quiet, seemed shy and kept to herself. My friends began to talk about her- I suppose because she was a white girl, we all figured she wouldn’t understand us when we spoke Spanish. They began to say a few mean things about her, but since she did not react right away, I figured it was safe to join in on the conversation.
I sat down quietly as they all began talking to each other. Once I began to discuss our lab work, I noticed something strange. They were all staring at me as if I had done something horribly wrong. The room’s coldness made the atmosphere feel depressing and added to my discomfort of the situation. I tried to ignore it, but then I couldn’t help hearing what they said.
Gerardo started talking about how she looked. She wasn’t dressed like a slut, but that didn’t really matter. At the time we were all young and stupid and thought every girl’s purpose in life was to spread her legs for us. He said she looked like a whore and that he’d f*** her. Being the slackers that we were, we were all hoping that she was smart so we could copy all of her work. The conversation then shifted to talking about her body. We all agreed that she had a big butt for a white girl, but that her breasts were way too small for our liking. Now I know that it was wrong to talk about her like this, but at the time I felt I had to. I think we all felt pressure to be ‘men,’ so of course, talking about girls like this had become normal for us.
In Spanish one of them said, “Yeah, I’d F*** her, she looks like a little whore too.” I sat there stunned. There I was in my blue sweatshirt and jeans with tennis shoes, and they were calling me a whore. Another one said, “This B**** better be smart, we can get her to do all the work.” They then went on to discuss different parts of my body saying that my breasts were too small and that I had “a big butt for a gringa.” Despite my usual quiet, politeness, in this case I just couldn’t take it. I was being disrespected as a woman, as a ‘white girl’ and as a HUMAN BEING. Evidently, the boys were unaware of my heritage. Although I may look like a ‘white girl’, I have been raised in a 100% Mexican household, and my Spanish was just as good, if not more grammatically correct than theirs.
Out of nowhere, this girl freaked out on us in Spanish! We were stunned and had no idea what to say- so we didn’t say anything. I will admit, we said some pretty awful things. When I look back on it now, I am ashamed of what I said. Throughout high school, I came to know her better. We became, not friends, acquaintances. We would occasionally joke with each other in some of our future classes. We had a few of the same friends. I am pretty sure we could have become friends had it not been for my moment of stupidity that first day of science class.
Before I knew it, my mouth was spewing out these words that seemed to come out quicker than I could process them in my mind. In Spanish I said, “How dare you think you can talk about people that way? Just because you assume I am a ‘white girl’ and don‘t understand you, you think it is okay to insult me? Guess what? I understood every ugly word you said and I am very offended. Do your mother’s know that you talk about women this way?…” I said a few more things that I don’t exactly remember. They all went silent and sat there with their eyes and mouths wide open. Not a word was spoken by any of them for the rest of class. I got no apology. They all just sat there silently, doing their own work. I was very proud that I actually stood up for myself, but disheartened that someone could actually talk that way about a person they had never even met before. For the rest of the semester, they acted as though the incident had never happened. I always worked alone, and never once let them mooch good grades off of me.
This incident was something I will never forget because it was the first time I had ever been so severely discriminated against. It hurt me on two levels, as a female and as a Hispanic. I found the situation to be so very ironic because while the boys were making fun of my ethnicity, they did not realize that we were of the same ethnicity. While they were talking bad about me as a woman, it didn’t occur to them how it would feel if someone were to talk that way about their mothers or sisters.
I believe that the immigration problems going on at the time of my incident may have inadvertently caused what happened. Looking back on Mexican-American history, there were quite a few conflicts. My incident occurred in the fall of 2001. During this time, there were a lot of new immigration policies being initiated to avoid terrorism after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. This caused Hispanic families a lot of stress because it became more difficult to come to the United States legally. Since it has become nearly impossible for the average Latino to cross over legally, many more illegal immigrants have started to flood in. This has caused high tensions in America, making immigration a major political issue. Hispanics are angry that they are being deprived the right to travel and visit their families. Many U.S. citizens fear immigration and want to build walls to close up the border. As of now, the tension continues and no one is happy.
The boys involved in my incident may have heard about the immigration issues, making them angrier with all ‘white people’ in general. High school was always very cliché when it came to races separating from one another. Most of the time, the Latinos avoided Caucasians and the Caucasians avoided Latinos. I attribute this racial tension to the racism that has always existed in America, the intensified recent Latino immigration, and to the recent issues that continue to occur, which seem to put different races against each other.
This racial factor is by no means an excuse for the boys’ behavior, but an inadvertent probable cause. As for the factor of sexism, I attribute this to ignorant, childish behavior. Perhaps sexism was prominent in their homes while growing up, or it could have been environmentally learned by outside sources such as the media. Whatever the case, I am almost positive that the boys learned from this experience, or at least like me, will never forget it.
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