09 April 2007

In the News, Redux*

So, this weekend I got really pissed off about racism. You may have noticed that a whole bunch of Latinos tried to rob a bank in my neighbourhood, and an FBI agent ended up dead. Of course, this being white-bread country and the internet being every idiot's soapbox (see here), the common reaction on many news boards was, "How much you want to bet these guys are a bunch of illegal immigrants?" Which, last time I checked, was damned racist. Several people tried to tell me that they weren't being racist, it was a legitimate question to ask.

Since when is it legitimate to ask a question that's based entirely on the ethnicity of someone's surname? (For the record, the four men are all US citizens, natives of New Brunswick. Their parents were immigrants, but they're as American as I am.)

This morning, still in somewhat of a froth over the matter, I faced my 9:00 Fundamentals of Reading and Writing Class. Which, it is worth mentioning, is composed of 26 students of Latino or Spanish origin. Some of them were born in this country, some emigrated soon after, some in recent years--but not a single one of them has a surname that could be mistaken for any other group of nationalities.

I gave them the background, for those who had not been following along at home (which, also evidenced below, was a good two-thirds of them) and then, when they were all righteously outraged that people were discriminating against others based on their ethnicity, I listed nine names on the board. I informed them that four of these names were the bank robbers, three were policemen, one was FBI, and one was the dead agent. (I gave them that one: Barry Lee Bush.) I then dared them to identify these players.

Only one student refused to take a guess, maintaining that you really couldn't tell by a person's name. Which was, of course, my point. Then we wrote about the whole experience, after I pointed out that the guy they were sure was one of the bank robbers was, in fact, the Commander of the NJ State Police, and another was the Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Newark FBI office. And that the "cops" they identified were all bank robbery suspects. Oops.

Then I made them freewrite about the whole experience and what they'd learned. Because I'm just a mean lady, that way.

*this is an addition to the regularly scheduled Sunday Scribblings post below.

1 comment:

susanna said...

What a great exercise for your students. I bet they love your class!