Civil Rights Essay

Racism…the belief that a particular race is superior to others; discrimination or prejudice based on race. Racism has been around for a long time and its effects have been seen a lot in the past few centuries: during the 1800s and earlier – in slavery, the Civil War, and slaves being freed; and then recently, during the 1900s – in the Civil Rights Movement. Everyone in the United States is supposed to have equal rights and not be discriminated against because of race, but sadly, that is not always what happens. Racism shouldn’t be around anymore, but it is, even in WCCHS. Sometimes it’s in the form of racist comments or racial slurs, and other times it’s in the form of “who hangs out with whom.” Something needs to be done about this. I think that if there were more integration in school-related activities, then students of different races would learn to accept each other the way they are, and racism wouldn’t be an issue at WCCHS.

As was stated, even though there shouldn’t be racism at WCCHS, there is. Although once in a while teachers might be involved if someone says something racist against them, most of the racism is between students. Although I don’t really see a whole lot of it and what I do see isn’t major, it is still there. Generally, Hispanics and non-Hispanics get along okay at WCCHS; a lot of the racism expressed in these two groups is just little things, such as racial slurs or mean comments about someone just because they are or aren’t Hispanic.

To get a broader view on racism at WCCHS and why it occurs, I interviewed Karen Miller, a freshman of Polish and German descent; Gabe Antonio, a freshman of Mexican descent who knows both English and Spanish; and Mr. Sayner, a World Geography/Global Studies teacher of western European descent. Karen, Gabe, and Mr. Sayner all agreed on their definitions of racism. Gabe said that racism means “people saying bad stuff about other races and cultures,” Karen said that it means that someone doesn’t like another person just because of their race – they are prejudiced, and Mr. Sayner said it means “people judging someone else based on physical characteristics like skin color.” In all three definitions you see that people are basing their opinions of others on outward characteristics rather than finding out for themselves what they are like.

The expression of prejudicial feelings was explained well by Mr. Sayner. He said that the racism that is at WCCHS is often revealed in small ways, such as in comments that students make without even realizing that they are racist comments which can offend someone of another race. One example of mean comments I, personally, have heard someone making is about how they hate when “those Mexican girls walk so slow in the hallway.” I know some (not all) Hispanic girls do walk slowly in the halls, but just as many non-Hispanic students do it too.

Not only is racism at WCCHS expressed by the things students say, but it is also expressed by how students act. For example, most Hispanic students hang out with other Hispanic students, and most non-Hispanic students hang out with other non-Hispanic students. I think part of this is attributed to the fact that many of the Hispanic students at WCCHS haven’t learned enough English to be in all non-bilingual classes. Therefore, they are put into separate bilingual classes away from the rest of the classrooms. Mr. Sayner thinks that Hispanics and non-Hispanics not hanging out often occurs because non-Hispanics are in the “popular culture.” In other words, the majority of Americans are white and they have a common culture. I agree, and I think that if Hispanics were also in the popular culture, then Hispanics and non-Hispanics would hang out together more often.

Although a big problem affecting race relations at WCCHS is non-Hispanics not hanging out with Hispanics, it is not the only problem between different races. Another problem that affects how Hispanics and non-Hispanics relate to each other is the language barrier. Karen states the problem perfectly: “They always seem to be talking in Spanish to each other, and that makes people that don’t now Spanish feel left out.” As Karen said, a lot of the time Hispanics are quiet or speak only in Spanish because they aren’t very good at speaking English and are embarrassed to speak it, leaving non-Hispanics to feel left out. Because of this, non-Hispanics and Hispanics don’t hang out together. My experience being in a Spanish class learning Spanish is similar to what Hispanics go through – I have to learn a foreign language, and so do Hispanics. They work hard at it and struggle through it. Gabe states this well, saying, “white kids don’t understand what Mexicans have been through,” meaning that they have come to a strange country (the United States) and have learned a strange language that, of course, isn’t as easy as their native language. Because of this, Hispanics and non-Hispanics don’t interact as much as they should, so they don’t get to know each other and hang out together.

Another big factor causing Hispanics and non-Hispanics to not get along as well as they should and hang out together is that they often have different interests. Most people want friends with similar interests. If two people have really different interests, most likely they won’t get along as well as if they both have more closely related interests. For example, let’s say I’m friends with someone who really likes to play football, but I don’t. It would be hard to find things to do together and we’d both get bored because we wouldn’t be able to find many things we both would want to do. The same goes for Hispanics and non-Hispanics – they have different interests and it’s hard to find common interests between them.

For the time being, we have a problem with racism at WCCHS. Although it is not a huge problem, it is still a problem and we need to find a solution to it, or at least we need to do something about it. I think one good thing that is being done, but doesn’t always help, is that students are taught, as they grow up, to accept everyone. However, often they become racist anyway as they get older because they see differences between themselves and people of other races. I think if classes, sports, and extracurricular activities were more integrated (something Mr. Sayner would like to see done about race relations at WCCHS), with more racial variety, students would be around a lot more students of other races. They would learn what students of other races are really like, and see that the stereotypes for those races are wrong. As Mr. Sayner put it, “more integration, less fostering of racism.” Basically, he is saying that the more we integrate classes, the more comfortable students will feel with students of other races. I believe if students became more comfortable around students of other races and learned to accept them, they would probably hang out with them more, be friendlier towards them, and fewer racist actions/comments would be exchanged between them.

While I was interviewing Gabe, he talked about how students who aren’t Mexican don’t understand what it’s like for Mexicans to learn a foreign language and live in a strange country. Mr. Sayner briefly mentioned the foreign exchange program, a program which allows students to go to a different country and study there for a few weeks. I think that by supporting this program, the school can help students see what it’s like to be in a strange country, which will help them sympathize with Hispanics and make them feel welcome in the school and stand up for them when they are being made fun of.

To sum it all up, there is definitely a problem between different races, but there are things we can do about it. As Karen put it, students are “comfortable with the friends they have now and don’t want to go out of their ‘comfort zone’ by talking to someone different.” If we can overcome differences and dislike based on skin color, maybe someday the world (and WCCHS) will be more peaceful.