For 25 years I worked as a substitute teacher in a sanctuary city in California, and I would like to share a few of my experiences. The racial proportions in the schools have been roughly 75 percent Hispanic, 10 percent black, 6 percent Asian, and almost no whites but for a stray Russian or Armenian.
The students are generally lazy, abusive, and disrespectful. Rather than do the work assigned, most of them spend their time texting, listening to music on their iPods, playing with cell phone cameras and handheld games, talking about sex and gangs and fighting, and eating junk food. Doritos and candy bars are a favorite breakfast.
Why do they behave this way? Mexican culture does not value education. Also, we give everything to them for free, so it has little value in their eyes. In Mexico, they would have to pay for everything, including their books. In America, we give them free books, so they scrawl all over them and lose them.
What is more, they say openly they have come here to “reconquer” this area, which they claim we stole from them. They are utterly serious about this, and it is another reason for their disrespectful attitude. They act as though they were all tutored by the same teacher to hate whitey.
To make matters worse, there is constant racial tension between blacks and Hispanics. South Central Los Angeles used to be totally black, but Hispanic gangs chased most of the blacks out. The racial divisions are evident in the segregated seating in the cafeterias at lunch; blacks sit with blacks, browns with browns, and the tiny group of Asians sits in the corner hoping they won’t be beaten and robbed of their lunch money.
Here are some vignettes from my experience as a teacher. Note that when I refer to “kids” I often mean fully grown high-school students who may be over six feet tall and weigh 200 pounds.
* * *
In the middle of class, a fight suddenly broke out in the back of the room between a Latino kid with a pocket-knife and a black kid. I ran to the back to try to stop the fight, and yelled for students to go for help. Instead, they blocked the door so nobody could exit and also covered the class phone so that nobody could call for security. They were screaming for blood and egging on the fight.
The two guys were going at it and it was hard for me to get in to grab either one. The Hispanic kid kept slicing the air, and the black kid kept dodging and throwing punches. I tried to grab one and separate them, nearly getting stabbed in the process. I had to keep dodging the knife and the fists, and had to back out and regroup many times. The fight went on for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, the Latino kid ran out the door. It’s a wonder I didn’t get sliced or punched.
Eventually, administrators and police entered the room, searched backpacks, and asked students what had happened. The students blamed me for the fight! They were unwilling to cooperate with the police in any way, and kept insisting that it was “the teacher’s fault.” An overweight black girl threatened me: “My homies at dis school, you better watch yo back.” When I asked the black police officer to punish the girl for this threat, he shrugged and said, “Well, she didn’t say she was gonna kill you. She didn’t use the word ‘kill.’ ”
* * *
Every day, students cursed and abused me. Besides the usual obscenities, over and over I would hear, “old white man.” This was related to their favorite taunts about takeover and invasion. They would say such things as, “Hey old white man! We’re invading your country! Haha! Nothing you can do about it! Haha! You better learn Spanish! You better go back to Europe!”
* * *
I was having a very bad day with the usual unruly students refusing to work or cooperate in any way. They were texting and listening to music and eating and basically having a loud party, with hyena laughter and chaos. I kept trying to get them to do a bit of work and they just yelled back: “Fuck you white boy!”
Finally, I couldn’t take any more and I called for security. The Latino security guard came, and I told him what was happening. I pointed out some kids that I wanted to have removed, while they continued to laugh and have a good time. Then I noticed that the security guard was smirking and laughing, too. As I stood there explaining to him how the students were treating me disrespectfully and calling me filthy names, the security officer joined in with the students to laugh at me! Of course, he was brown, the kids were brown, and I’m white.
* * *
In winter, on a day when the temperature was around 40 degrees, a Hispanic gangbanger student kept turning on the air conditioner every time I turned my back. The room was like a refrigerator. I would turn it off, and he would wait until I turned my back and would turn the AC on again. Finally I caught him turning it on and he screamed, “Stop looking at me you faggot!” I said, “If you turn it on again I’m going to send you out.” His girlfriend added, “You’re lucky he’s wearing a tracker or he’d take care of you.” He was wearing an ankle monitor from a previous arrest.
The thug student kept mad-dogging me (staring at me hatefully) and kept repeating, “Fuck you mister! You can’t tell me what to do. Stop cursing at me mister! See what he did, everybody?”
Of course, I had not cursed him at all, but this is a game they play. They will claim that you’ve done something that you haven’t done, and the whole class will back them up, no matter what.
* * *
I had just left the main office and was going through the breezeway to my building when I was hit in the face with a scalding hot liquid. A student from the second floor had thrown a cup of hot chocolate on me. My new sports coat was ruined. Luckily I was not blinded.
* * *
At the start of a class period, a few minutes after the bell, a huge gangster-looking black kid came into the room, loud iPod cranked up, bad attitude, giving me a nasty look for no reason. I asked him to “lose the music.” Suddenly the kid went nuts and started yelling and swinging at me, “You wanna get down you little bitch? Huh? You wanna get down? I got a gun in my backpack and I’m gonna use it on you.”
I called security and the kid ran out the door. I wrote a report about the death threat, and gave it to a non-white assistant principal at lunchtime, and then together we went out onto the campus grounds to see if we could find the kid. He was at the back of the school near the bleachers where students hide out and smoke dope. When I pointed him out to the assistant principal, the kid cursed me out and said that I had harassed him. The AP pretended that he was cooperating with me and said he would do something about the death threat. Then, toward the end of the day, the school police came to me and said, “Oh, c’mon! The kid said he was going to shoot you, but he didn’t do it! He didn’t even hit you, right? We can’t do anything about this. We have nothing to go on. Nothing happened. You just have to let it go.” The schools cover up these incidents.
At least once a month a whole class would leave early without permission. Say, 10 minutes before lunch, or five or 10 minutes before dismissal at the end of the day, all of the students would simply get up and walk out. Of course, I always protested and yelled for them to stop, but there was no stopping them. (You can’t touch them or they will sue for “assault” and get a district payoff—a quick check for $250,000, which is like winning the lottery for an illegal Mexican.)
So, the students would run out, and then like clockwork a few minutes later a Hispanic administrator would show up to chew me out, “Why did you dismiss your students? What is wrong with you? You know you’re not supposed to allow them to leave early! I should write you up for this!”
There was no way to defend myself. It did not matter what I said, it was always my fault. That was how Hispanic administrators treated white teachers.
* * *
One day, as I was getting ready to show a documentary, a Hispanic kid pulled out a dirty DVD of Paris Hilton from his backpack and demanded that I put it on instead of the documentary. I said no way. He rattled on about “One Night with Paris” and how it would be so cool if I’d just let them watch it, and nobody would know, and nobody would tell on me. I gave him a look of astonishment. He said, “C’mon! Let’s watch Paris get her brains fucked out! C’mon Mister! Nobody’s gonna tell! C’mon, be cool!”
I said no and put on the documentary. The kid was furious and complained loudly to his friends that I was an “asshole.”
* * *
A gangster-looking Hispanic kid was disrupting the class. He had the usual shaved head, cap on backwards, earrings, and tats. He refused to work, kept getting up and walking around the room, disrupting the class. When I asked him to sit down and work, he started mad-dogging me for long stretches of time. Then he jumped up and went to the board and grabbed some markers and put them in his pocket. I got up and asked for the markers. He said, “I pay taxes, fool. These are my markers.” I told him to give me the markers. He said, “Go sit down you little bitch before I beat your ass.” I went to the phone and he ran out the door. I told the Mexican assistant principal about the incident. The AP said, “Well, this kid just needs a little extra help. I’ll have a talk with him.” Then the AP called me later and said the kid was going to apologize to me. Of course, there was no apology.
* * *
A Latino kid was mad-dogging me for no reason that I could fathom. I asked him if he had a problem. He said, “After what your people did to my people, I shouldn’t even let you live.”
* * *
I will end with one of the strangest incidents in my teaching career. I was having a lot of trouble with a group of Latina girls at an all-girls’ school. They were loud and rowdy, playing with their cell phones and texting, eating junk food, taking pictures of each other, and laughing like hyenas. The entire class was crazy. I sent two girls out but it didn’t help, so I sent some more girls to the computer room, library, etc., to try to get control of the class. An assistant principal came and talked to them, but as soon as he left they went right back to their loud party atmosphere. I kept circulating, trying to get them to do some work, but to no avail.
Towards the end of class it took a weird turn. All of the girls started rubbing themselves. They were rubbing their breasts and also between their legs. I told them to stop it, but they kept it up. They said things like, “Hey mister, do you have some tampons? Ooh, my vagina! I know you have some tampons mister!” I kept telling them to stop. One girl kept rubbing her breasts and said, “I just got my nipples pierced! Wanna see?” Then she pulled her shirt up to expose her breast. It was the last three minutes of the day, right before the bell to go home, and they continued, “C’mon mister! I know you carry tampons. Would you like to put a tampon inside me? C’mon mister! I know you like these headlights!” I said, “Stop it right now. I’ll write you up!” “Ah, you can’t do nothing. The bell’s gonna ring.” I sat at the desk scared to death, begging God just to help me get out of there. Another girl laughed and said, “If you tell on me for this, I’ll say that you touched my titties!”
Believe it or not, these were 7th graders. I’m lucky they didn’t make up lies and claim that I touched them or I could have gone to jail.