LatinaLista — A disturbing event happened at an elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona this month. A 9-year-old boy was suspended for committing a hate crime — he is accused of using the term “brown people.”
Whether or not he actually used the term is questionable but what is verifiable is that the principal made a rather surprising remark to the boy.
She told him, as she recounted to the boy’s mother later during a recorded conference:
“As we said to (the boy) when he was in here, in your heart you may have that (racist) feeling, and that is OK if that is your personal belief.”
She went on to say that he should keep those feelings to himself.
It’s one thing to respect differences of opinion but it’s another to bypass a perfect opportunity to educate the young so that those kinds of personal beliefs are never formed.
The story goes that the 9-year-old who was suspended was involved in a fight with another student who happened to be Latino.
It also happened that the Latino student’s mother worked at the elementary school as a detention-room officer. For some unknown reason, she was allowed to interrogate the 9-year-old about the fight with her child. At the start of the questioning, the mother/school employee asked the 9-year-old why he didn’t want to cooperate with “brown people.”
The mother of the 9-year-old contends that the other mother put those words in her son’s mouth and that she and her children don’t see race nor use those words or refer to Latinos like that. But if he had said it, his mother wonders why the principal would tell her son that it was okay to have those feelings but to not tell anyone about them and also suspend him for 3 days.
He was also made to stand in front of the classroom and confess to his class that he used the term after he was accused of saying it for a second time.
His mother was so enraged at the school that she withdrew her son and put him in another school and the principal is resigning effective Dec. 24, for “personal” reasons.
As far as the principal in this story is concerned and the teachers and the mother/school employee, all of them acted in a more juvenile fashion than the 9-year-old and the other student.
By asking the student why he couldn’t get along with “brown people,” the mother in this case transferred her own prejudices to the boy.
By telling him it was okay to have those feelings but don’t tell anyone about them, the principal imposed her true feelings about racism onto the boy.
By having him stand up in front of the class and confess to using the term “brown people” now makes that student and everyone in that class associate brown people with something negative and shameful.
The different messages this boy received from the adults who are supposed to be role models in his life were not only confusing but damaging.
From this day forward, this 9-year-old will think only in negative terms when he hears the words “brown people” or sees other Latinos.
That is the biggest shame.
We’ve already seen how race is dividing the adults in this country. Why do we want the same for our children?