The Response to Immigration Protesters by Classmates
It has been extremely difficult to watch the news over the past year and not form an opinion of the numerous protests of the proposed immigration laws. Students from across the country have skipped class on a daily basis to argue against laws that would make it a felony to be an illegal immigrant or to assist illegal immigrants in the United States.
Although the law would affect all immigrants, the majority of the students protesting are Hispanics, and many see the proposed law as a direct attack on their family members and friends. Despite the fact that most of the Hispanic students were born in this country, some have parents that will have to leave this country if legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives becomes law.
During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, many African Americans faced ostracism for participation in the struggle, and some like Rosa Parks even lost their jobs, because many employers were unsympathetic to their cause. The experience of the Black struggle makes one wonder, how have classmates of other races treated Hispanic protesters now that they have returned to school?
Even though the majority of the protesters were high school students, children in younger age groups have also taken interest in the protests.
Although most of the students at Klein Intermediate School in Houston have not taken an active role in the marches, many have loved ones and friends who have taken to the streets to protest the proposed immigration laws.
Moreover, while the response from non-Hispanic classmates has usually been very positive and supportive, several students have experienced discrimination from their peers.
Eighth grader Ryan Brown said, “I tell Hispanics who are protesting to keep protesting and never give up in what you believe in.”
However, Olivia Clay who has some Hispanic family members said, “My friends are saying that this whole thing is stupid. It’s starting another Black and Mexican fight.”
Many of Klein’s student said there is a turbulent history between African American and Latino students at their school.
Brandi Alvarez said, “A lot of Black people have told me, ‘you stupid Hispanic, go back to your country and leave, you do not belong here.’”
One male Hispanic student said there are fights every year between Black and Hispanic students, and earlier this year he said he was involved in a fight for simply being Hispanic.
On the contrary, Laura Alonso said, “Some people of other races have been very supportive and respectful about this situation.”
Elizabeth Rivera said other races have not treated her differently but she has heard of one incident when a girl brought a Mexican flag and some students took it a way from her and began stomping on it.
While most of the racial incidents at school have been minor verbal altercations, some foreign students say they experience hostility when they go out in public. Several Hispanic students say they overhear people of other races making negative comments about the protesters.
However, Quad Carden said, “Most of my peers say nothing about it … but we still understand the impact of this. I have seen people disrespecting the Hispanics, and I do believe that it is wrong.”
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.