SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2014       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Daniel Hartlauer

Gringo Nazi: The Battle of Whiteness in a Racist Wasteland


From the time I was born until I was seven years old I lived in Germany. I was born there when my father was stationed there in the U.S. military, although I am also an American of German and Irish descent. Naturally when I got to Barcelona Middle School in Glendale, Arizona word got around where I was from. I had never really experienced any kind of ethnic stereotypes until the seventh grade. Aside from being overweight and getting called obscene names for that, every day when I came to Language Arts class I would be called a Nazi. It got so bad that one boy in particular drew a swastika on my homework as I passed it down our row to turn in.

This lead to more problems the day following the drawing; my teacher asked me why I drew it. I explained that I would never do something like that and that it had to be someone in my row who did it. So the next time I passed down an assignment to turn in I watched to find out who it was. I finally saw that when all the other papers were passed to the one boyís desk he was drawing something. I walked over and caught him in the act and asked him why he was doing it.  ďWhy do you hate Jews so much?Ē he responded.Ē I donít, and you need to stopĒ, I replied. He stood up, pushed me and with a grunt he said ďWhat are you going to do about it?Ē At this point the teacher intervened. All he got was a detention and then he continued drawing Swastikas on my homework and calling me a Nazi whenever he got the chance. Eventually I got fed up and switched classed so I wouldnít have to deal with him anymore.

It was depressing to think that someone would make such a generalization about me just because of the country I was born in. It made me regret being born there and having German as part of my cultural background. I felt ashamed for something completely out of my control. I felt different, like I shouldnít be there. I didnít have many friends to begin with at that age and this perceived notion of me gave others reason not to want any contact with me. The guy who drew swastikas on my homework also told people that Hitler was my hero. When I got promoted from eighth grade to high school I made it a priority to get out of that district and go to a school where no one knew me so I could start over.

. Barcelona Middle school will forever be a place of torture for me. I attended from second grade all the way through Junior High. Kids called me fat, gay, ugly but it wasnít until 7th grade that someone treated me poorly for where I was from. His name was Carlos, he was Hispanic. Itís safe to say the majority of the kids at my school lived in poor living conditions. There is little to no housing surrounding the school, almost exclusively dirty apartment complexes. Most of the kids I came in contact with were angry or mean. Carlos was the worst.

What made me angry was that he had never been to Germany, he had never tasted German food and he had never heard German music. Hell, he had never even met another person from Germany. I was used to people making fun of me for being fat, because I was. And I was ashamed of my weight. But until that moment when he drew a swastika on my homework, I had never been ashamed of the country I was born in. A lot of people might see this as no big deal if they were in my shoes. But in order to completely know how I felt you have to understand, I was already at my breaking point from all of the constant bullying I had taken over the years. This kid pushed me over the line. I wanted to hit him, but I knew that wouldnít help me. I was weak, much smaller than him and frankly afraid, so I ultimately let the educators deal with the situation.

Over time I learned that he wasnít mad at me for being German, he was mad at me for being white. He was mad at me because I was educated and had a good home life. He wanted me to suffer like his family probably suffers.

Thereís this gringo in my class. We were doing an assignment a few days ago and I heard him telling someone he was from Germany. Itís bad enough the teacher always calls on him to answer questions but now I find out heís a stupid Nazi. I know this because we just learned about German people in history class and people from Germany must be like Hitler. Thatís probably why heís the first German Iíve ever met.

I mean look at him. He may be fat but heís privileged because heís white. The teacher is white. There are only a few white people in this class and they all get special treatment. It makes me so damn angry.  But that doesnít matter, because I got him back.

We were all passing in our assignments the other day, I sit at the end of the row and that gringo sits at the other side of our row. The papers were passed in my direction. Once the papers reached me I drew a swastika on his paper so maybe the teacher wonít think so highly of him anymore. Later I saw Mr. Hutton pull him aside and ask him about the paper. You should have seen his reaction; hilarious.

I couldnít help myself; I had to do it again. Too bad this time that gringo Nazi saw me. But heís just a little fat kid. I could kick his ass no problem. He told me to stop and I basically just laughed at him. That little kid was too scared to try and fight me so of course that Nazi told the teacher. All I got was an in-school detention for a few days, no biggie.

I guess that Nazi finally got what was coming to him because he switched classes. No one ever stops to help me or try to make me smarter. No teachers give me attention unless I do something bad. But if thatís what I have to do itís what I have to do. I wonít make my way in this world by letting white people get everything. One day Iíll get my turn. Until then, at least I put him in his place.

This experience  taught me a few things. First, it taught me that people can use their hate for a specific race (in this case white) to pick at any small aspect of a personís being and run with it. In my case it was being German. What I didnít see is how Carlos treated other white people. As a kid I saw it as ďIím German and he hates me because he just learned about Naziís.Ē But what I really didnít see was what was happening in the world around me. I was oblivious to what had happened before I even moved from Germany to America in 1998. I was unaware that my familyís migration to Arizona coincided during a time of intense immigration from Mexico and the beginning of the anti-immigrant sentiment  that would emanate in SB1070 in 2010, the most anti-immigrant legislation in the United States. In 1996 the Immigration Act prevented illegal border crossing and Mexicans all over Arizona (among other states) started losing their benefits and federal funding. This forced tons of Hispanic people into deeper poverty. After taking this class and becoming more of an adult I realize Carlos probably couldnít care less that I was from Germany. He cared about my whiteness, and the benefits he knew I was probably receiving just for being a member of Arizonaís dominant race at that time. The fact that I was from Germany just made it easier for him to pick on me, amongst my other flaws.

This incident has stuck with me because it was the final bullying experience I ever let hurt me. I got in better shape, I moved on to high school and I made friends. I still love Germany, and I donít hate that kid for treating me the way he did. I understand that he was just angry, and may still be angry. And I donít blame him. And in regards to history, the amount of ridicule I got for being German is nothing compared to what the Jewish people had to suffer. But incidents like this just repeat the cycle of discrimination. Carlos probably went on to treat more white people poorly and was probably treated poorly by them as well. For many years after that I had negative view of Hispanic people.

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