I believe our generation celebrates the art and differences of minority groups. In elementary school, we use to joke that we only read books about Native or Black Americans. I don’t remember reading many books about white-girls, because of the extreme swing to multicultural education in the 90s. All you have to look out is the prevalence of rap in white-male’s Ipods to realize that our age-group grew up in a “politic of recognition” encouraged by Multiculturalism. We love the songs Gagnam Style or the comic books of Manga and still practice the dances shown in Slumdog Millionaire.
However, when I read “Educational barriers for New Latinos in Georgia,” I realized multicultural acceptance has not been achieved for all groups in American Society. Even though my textbook Affirming Diversity states that Hispanic Americans are the number one minority in America and the fastest growing, I don’t think they have an equal ratio of prevalence in American culture and understanding.
These sentiments were expressed by Hispanics in Georgia when one respondent said, “In Georgia, there are Black people and White people. They don’t know what to do. You’re not White, so they either treat you like you’re Black, or they just ignore you.” I bet Georgians are not the only people who equate the word, “minority” to black Americans. Although I was raised in a multicultural education age that celebrated black and native American accomplishments, I never read books until college about Hispanic students. I read To Kill a Mockingbird and Black Boy and Their Eyes were Watching God and many other books about slavery and Africa American history, but I read no books about Spanish-speaking people until I got to college and read books like the House on Mango Street in a designated multicultural english class. I really wasn’t familiar with the hispanic story.
I observed this in an Advanced English class I observed at Clark Central this week. The teacher used terms with his primarily black audience that included them in dialogue like, “Are you down with Booker T?” and “tell me what’s going on in your head right now, man.” But later when we broke off with individual students to help them revise their autobiographies I picked a girl named Vianey Salas. My sweet student Vianey used the wrong verb tenses, didn’t capitalize her “I”s and had no idea how to form basic sentences. I could tell by what she was trying to describe in her writing that she was incredible intelligent . Even the main teacher’s edits on her papers addressed content and not blatant grammar errors. I was completely baffled how this student was in “Advanced English 11.” Later, when I talked with other student teachers they said they were “impressed” with the length of their student’s papers and I heard other teachers in my cohort tell their black pupils, “I see no grammar errors in your paper.” When I had Vianey read her paper out loud, she would catch where she used the wrong tenses for verbs, but it didn’t look like anyone had ever sat down with her and taught her this trick before and her parents don’t speak English. She explained to me that when she first came from Mexico in 6th grade she had a social worker mentor who taught her how to speak English and came to her soccer games and supported her in school. However, she has no mentor in highschool who tracks her success or failure. She said she only liked Math & soccer at school, but I realized that’s because those two subjects don’t require English proficiency. Based on her ideas in her paper she would be an excellent writer if someone could spent more time with her. Vianey does live in a multicultural classroom geared to black students and for that reason she has been left out. It seems she has already fallen way too far behind.
I really want to help her finish her story, she has so many good things to say. We’ll see if she emails me back.