SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2005        Personal Memory Ethnographies

Vince Sanchez

All the Mexicans Don’t Feel Like Singing

    Music teacher: “I see not everyone is participating today.  Remember, a portion of your score for this class depends you singing each song and being involved.  Turn to page 34 and we will begin the next one.”

    Music teacher inner dialogue: How hard is it to read the words from the book and at least act like they are trying?  I loved music class when I was their age.  This is much better than math or science.  I hate when they just sit there…mindlessly staring into space.

    Music teacher:  “Let’s begin the next song.  One, two, three, four.” 

    The music starts and most of the class follows the instructor’s lead and begins singing her selection.  The instructor begins scanning the chairs to identify those disobeying her.

    Music teacher inner dialogue:  So far so good.  Shelly has a great voice.  Good, Ben is singing right along.  Wait a minute…Jerry Nunez, Vince Sanchez…Jonathon Corosco.  All three right next to each other…laughing.  They don’t even care that I see them.  Their parents really messed up trying to teach them respect for others.

    The song has now ended and the instructor is extremely upset, scowling in the direction of the three she identified during the song.

    Music teacher: “Well, let’s see here…Nunez, Sanchez, and Corosco.  I see all the Mexicans don’t feel like singing today…”

    One of the most vivid aspects that I remember from this incident was the sound the few seconds after the teacher said this comment. Complete silence stunned us all as the class and the teacher sort of blankly stared, trying to make sense of the prejudiced remark that the teacher uttered.  I was seven years old when this happened and at the time didn’t grasp how bad of a comment it really was.  I knew something about it wasn’t right and in my mind knew an adult should have been told.  My friends and I took the comment in front of 25 peers…25 friends.  We never told a teacher or principal, and I never told my parents.  All of us were able to laugh it off and at least told each other we didn’t care.  Probably due to embarrassment, we put a humorous spin on it to avoid any further uncomfortable feelings that this grown adult had caused.  She thought up those menacing words out of pure frustration and unable to control that frustration, actually said it out loud in a room of third graders. 

    Until that point, I had never been in a situation involving prejudice, let alone a situation that included me as its object.  I had never experienced such a discriminatory comment delivered with such force that I could feel the person’s rage coming out.  However, this moment in my life did open my eyes to the world I lived in because before it I was is the all innocent, all-is-perfect mindset.  I knew a little of racism and its negative effects but going through this let me feel (if only slightly) what other people went through and continue to go through involving discrimination. 

    Music teacher: “Well, let’s see here…Nunez, Sanchez, and Corosco.  I see all the Mexicans don’t feel like singing today…”

   The three students sit stunned.  They eventually turn to each other with confused looks, shocked from what they had just heard.  The instructor continues to stare at them in silence.  The students then look down, representing the shame and embarrassment they felt in front of 25 other students…friends.

   Music teacher inner dialogue:  What did I just say?  I’m supposed to be a role model for these kids.  How could I make a comment like that?  You know what?  Oh well!  Like these kids would have the courage to accuse a teacher of this.  They probably didn’t even understand it.  If they tell, I’ll deny it.  Who is the principal going to believe?  A bunch of children…or me?  A grown adult!  I’ve been here for 15 years…no way will something this minor affect my reputation.  I’m not racist.  I’m not.  It was just a comment.  I should get an apology for their disrespect.  They’re just lazy Mexicans.

   When it comes to race, I know people may often think things in their head but don’t say it.  Everyone has experienced conflict in a racial scenario so the effects are widely known.  This teacher actually chose to vocalize her racist thoughts and said it in front of innocent children.  She probably would have been suspended had one of us told an authority and had that authority taken it for what it was.  She had a stern face with a powerful scowl that she would use to intimidate her students.  Everyone has had that teacher that never seems to be in a good mood and probably should have chosen another career; this was that teacher.  That said, no teacher should be frustrated enough to verbally abuse seven year olds because they didn’t sing in music class.

    I have found out recently that she is no longer teaching music class at the school.  She was older when I was there so no doubt retirement was near for her.  I never heard of any other problems from her and the comment she uttered to my friends and I could have been a single lapse in judgement.  Whether it was the first or one of many incidents involving her, that one has stuck out as a reminder of the world we live in.

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