Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Moving Objects

I have readers who comment that I focus on race/ethnicity too much and that THAT is MY problem, that race/ethnicity don't really matter anymore, that we are all human beings, and all sorts of other rainbow coalition, kumbaya hand holding unity trips. If ever there was a fleeting moment when I fell into that, last night's Parents' Association (PA)board meeting at my daughter's school sure as hell gave me (and should give others) a reality check.

A number of years ago, because the registration numbers were so low at our local public school, a decision was made to rezone the school to include three blocks in nearby Corona, Queens (full disclosure: I spent quite a few years of my childhood and teens in Corona and still have ties there). This meant that about 60 students began to be bussed in. Back then, Rego Park had very few people of color, including Latinos. I remember when my family was the only family of color. I remember being told we were nice "for being Puerto Rican". This was a big deal.

Now Rego Park is a different neighborhood. There are many Latinos as well as other races and ethnicities (Still there are not many African Americans,a handful of West Africans, and some Haitians). The local school has grown academically and in terms of population, so much so that this year the school is pretty close to capacity. Neighborhood kids are being turned away from non-mandatory kindergarten (this actually happened to me a few years back, part of the reason why I homeschooled for Kinder). If the school keeps growing the physical building will need to grow as well if we don't want over crowded classrooms.

So at the meeting last night , a parent asked, "What about those kids that are bused in. Can't we get them out?"

The PA president explained that well yeah but because of the way the school had been zoned, those kids pertained to the school, so the only way to get rid of those kids was to change the zone. The PA president acknowledged that this was a loaded issue that the Principal wasn't anxious to touch because of the racial implications. The board wanted to write a letter to the local Community Education Council to see about the school being rezoned.

Then, as if on cue, all the meeting attendees, turned to look at me, not only the only Latina at the meeting, but the only person of color at the meeting (I had , conveniently for them, chosen a seat at one end of the conference table). One attendee, an elected board member asked me, prefacing that I should inform her if what she was suggesting was "crass", if it wouldn't be better if I, being a spic and all (of course she didn't say spic- she wouldn't be THAT crass) and with a "Spanish" last name, signed the letter.

The blood rushed up into my face but I breathed in and said responded that yes it was a crass question but one that I was ready for since the beginning of the discussion (Spiderman has Spidey Senses, I have Spic Senses)and that there was no way I would sign my name on the letter.

As if it weren't bad enough that Latino children from predominantly Latino 'hoods had originally been used to boost up rosters therefore boosting budgets, now the same school that brought those students here wants to get rid of them, just move them around instead of dealing with the fundamental issue of the need to create more classrooms and build more school and fix the schools that aren't working. Add to that trying to use a Latina parent who has been active in the school to soothe white guilt and buffer themselves from being called racists.

I want small classes. I want my daughter to have access to her local school. I , as a Latina parent, have the same goals and wishes for my child as other parents have for their children but not at the expense of other children and not using other children as disposable materials.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I didn´t already know you weren´t i´d think you were making this up. This is an outrage and though maybe when i become a parent i will be able to exhibit the kind of control you did, i think if that happened to me now i would have cut someone.

Also, I must admit, I had a very naive idea about the way things work in NY. I would expect this to happen in TX, not out there.

9/14/2005 01:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw, not trying to be anonymous, blogger is having "server errors". this is jennifer.

9/14/2005 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger fiercelyfab said...

People that say that racism doesn't exist really need to splash their face with ice water and wake up.

9/14/2005 02:52:00 PM  

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