I play in a Fijian soccer league. The league has a rule that each team can field 4 non-Fijians per game. So I am one of the four, the other seven are Fijian, the five guys on the bench are Fijian, the coaches are Fijian, and all of the fans lined up along the sideline are too. After games, we head to one of the coaches’ houses and eat goat curry and stuff like that. It’s lots of fun.
Oftentimes I find myself at these Fijian parties (which are great by the way, they drink like there’s no tomorrow) as the only non-Fijian there. Men, women, grandmothers, babies, teens – everyone is Indian, and half of them are speaking Fijian or Hindi. The older women are dressed in colorful Saris, and tell stories about their homeland. I look on jealously, acutely aware of my own lack of anything resembling such culture.
But what I want to talk about here is something completely different. I want to talk about being an outsider. In these get-togethers, I am an outsider, looking in, trying to assimilate to the foreign culture surrounding me. I look for acceptance, I mimic certain practices, and try not to offend. It is at times like these that I am reminded about what our students of color face everyday.
I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about students of color. I think most educators do the same. We analyze the test score disparities until we’re blue in the face, and give lectures on theories and practices we’d like to see go into effect. These students are struggling, and it is because they are on the outside looking in.
America is a society dominated by white people. Those who run our country are white (aside from one very obvious exception), our bosses are white, and in our schools, a vast majority of the teachers are white. And then there are our students of color, trying acclimate, trying to fit in, trying to succeed – much like me after a soccer game.
Ask yourself this question: When was the last time I was an EXTREME minority? Seriously, when was the last time you were the only ethnicity in a large gathering? Do you remember how you felt?
Now imagine feeling that way every day of your life.
I think we take for granted the ease with which we fit into society (by we I am talking about other white people, obviously). You can call it White Privilege, you can call it a lot of things. Either way, it is something we don’t have to think about. We know one thing: We fit in, we always will, and the jobs we apply for are already filled with people like us.
But there is one very big point I would like to make aside from reminding you what it is like being an outsider. There’s a difference when I kick it after a Fijian soccer game – they want me there, they are friendly, accommodating, and try very hard to make me feel like part of the family.
I’m not sure we can say that about our country and our students of color.
I remember a year or so ago, former President Jimmy Carter got a lot of press for saying that Racism was still very much a problem in the United States. The fall-out from that was pathetic. All over the media people claimed he was out of touch, senile, didn’t know what he was talking about, and should keep quiet. It was amazing. I guess what amazes me even more is that our media as a whole is so out of touch – I can see some crazies claiming this, but he got a thrashing from all over the place. Then what happened?
We all figured out he was right.
I could cite all kinds of evidence – the “Go Back to Kenya” signs directed at our current president. Commentators on certain news networks claiming “we” need to have more babies so the Mexicans aren’t the majority by 2050 (and not even being asked to apologize for it). Of course the evidence is overwhelming. But whether you believe or have seen the example I just gave, I implore you to do the following if you are unconvinced about the continued presence of racism in this country: GO ONLINE AND LOOK AT COMMENTS.
Goodness gracious. The comments section after every article on the internet is full of the vilest hate speech you will ever hear. What the internet comments page has done is completely mask the identity of average everyday Americans so that they can really say what they think – and boy do they. There is no doubting what these people think, because without having to claim ownership, they are truly speaking from the darkness of their hearts.
Just today, there was an article on CNN about African-Americans finding faith in God despite all their hardships. It was meant to be an uplifting article about how black people keep their faith, and look toward the future. But you go to the comments section, and it’s almost like a verbal race riot. And sure enough, one guy aptly named ApeHanger says: “Judging by what I see around here, some blacks would do well to spend less time in church and more time in school getting an education.” And for some strange reason, not only do I not think “ApeHanger” is his real name, I also think it’s insinuating something. Call me crazy. Also, I’m almost positive he really means it.
I could go on and on. It’s almost too easy. An article about Arizona Immigration has some gems. Bud1dogg says: “Most illegals (and legals too) aren’t going back home to Mexico or wherever; no way. They are going to trash Utah, Texas and Colorado instead, as if it was not enough trash over there.” Cornman2000 says: “Go Home illegals. go Home illegals.. Go home illegals. we won’t hate to see you gooooooooooo!” (No, I don’t know what the double period is for either).
It never ends, and if you don’t believe me, just log on yourself. Go to an article about Arizona Immigration, or anything about black people, and check out the conversation going on. To tell you the truth I’ve almost become fascinated by it. I’m getting to the point where I’m skipping half the articles just to see what my fellow Americans are saying cloaked in the comfort of anonymity. If you really want to know the pulse of our country, look at the comments.
So as opposed to the Fijian goat barbeques I attend, our students of color are not being welcomed with open arms. Jimmy Carter was right – racism is still a problem, and since the election of Barack Obama, and the Arizona Immigration issue, it seems to be getting worse. And our kids of color not only have to deal with such rampant hate, they have to do it from the position of an outsider. They are looking in, trying to fit, trying to succeed, trying to do a lot of things, and there are a lot of barriers I think we forget to recognize.
It’s hard being an outsider. And it’s even harder when there’s so much hate coming from the inside.
But if there is another cultural phenomenon the internet has created, it has been to expose the true thoughts of everyday people on a larger scale than we have ever seen. All you need to do is log on. If Shakespeare were alive today, he might post a comment like this: “Many a truth is spoken in Comments.”