Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Menticia hears rumbles about rumbles

My friend Menticia, a small sixth grader, is changing. Shadows are reaching down from history, from the angry side of human nature, into her innocent world. They're creeping into middle school and darkening her life.

The other day when we were talking about a book report in which she had to discuss the differences between her and the book's protagonist, she was stumped. I said, "well, what are the differences between you and me?" She instantly answered: "I'm Mexican and you're not."

Her brother is in high school and, while it's unclear whether he hangs out with the tough kids, he clearly knows them well. A couple weeks ago he told her there was going to be a fight out behind the movie theater. I said, Menticia, you're not going to go to see that, are you? She said all her friends were going.

Last week she told me that scheduled fight hadn't occurred. "The neighbors saw there were a lot of Mexican teenagers there and called the cops. They don't like to see a lot of Mexicans together." That's what her brother told her. It kind of broke my heart.

Then she said there's a big fight scheduled between the Mexican kids from all the local high schools (she rattled off the schools' names, I wouldn't have thought she'd know them) and the African-American kids. This sounded so much like West Side Story my mouth might have dropped open.

I know I can't protect Menticia from racism, and I can't protect her from the crazy decisions kids make, but I hope to contribute a protective level of skepticism about the grandeur and theatrics of racial conflicts as acted out by very young people.

Just because it might sound cool or look cool doesn't mean it is. Young people, too young to understand what they're doing, can wreck their lives in the blink of an eye.

This is the mantra I'm working on: "Maybe some people have to be stupid, but you don't." I try to remind her of all the good will she's seen among the people around her, people of many colors...

The Blue Ribbon Advocate-Mentor program wisely matches us up with our mentees when they are in fourth grade, before hormones and other complications get overwhelming. But I'm not sure I'm ready for the phase we're entering.




At 6:48 PM, Anonymous Ethan said...

Just because it might sound cool or look cool doesn't mean it is. Young people, too young to understand what they're doing, can wreck their lives in the blink of an eye.

Too true. Hopefully you can get through to her. (She sounds like an OK kid anyway, but just sayin'.)

At 9:55 PM, Anonymous susanlynn said...

Great advice : ''Maybe some people have to be stupid, but you don't.'' Loved that. I taught in a high school where almost everyone , teachers, students, principal, etc. was a WASP. Even so, there were fights and prejudice [often the haves vs the have nots because half the district was upper middle class professionals and half were rural farm folks]. I guess that if people look for differences to fight over , they will always find some. I, on the other hand , grew up with WASPs but ended up teaching such a diverse group of people [different countries, religions, cultures, economic levels] and I have found that people are much more alike than different. My daughter told me that she and her sister are pretty tolerant and accepting people because I've always told them how much I love my students. Menticia is very lucky to have you in her life to help her at this critical time in her life.~~~Susanlynn

At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Ginger said...

I've just read in a Greensboro blog about two kindergarden kids, in what one of their mothers described as a 'gansta' move, pushing another child down and tried to stuff mulch in her mouth.

We'e talking kindergarden here. And a child of diverse, well-educated parents, upper middle class professionals.

I have no idea beyond this about the circumstances involved, why they ganged up on this child, but I
was shocked to read it.


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