Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Token White Girl

As the Token White Girl in my school, I was made an example of during assembly this morning. As you should know, January 15th is the day that the United States celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday. Well, Veronica was explaining about what MLK did in the US and how he spurred a lot of change that happened some 50 years ago. You all know the story, but these kids don't. She apologized as she brought me up front saying, "I'm sorry, but I need them to understand that they are not white. You are white. Growing up here is different, because there is less diversity. They think they're white." Of course, it doesn't matter if these kids are white, brown or purple, but for the sake of the explanation, they did need to understand that they too would have been sitting in the back of the bus and going to separate restaurants and movie theaters. As I was standing up there in front of the school, I realized that I really was the only "white girl" in the school. All of the students are Honduran, at least as far as I know. All of the teachers, except me (now that Mr. Anthony left) are Honduran too. Well, Chanel is from the US, but both of her parents are from the Bay Islands (so they're lighter skinned, but still Honduran), and she looks, well, like she is too.
Therefore, I, single-handedly, represent the US. It is assumed that I have a lot of money. It is assumed that my family can afford to fly me back and forth to the States. It is assumed that will want to buy the expensive jewelry the girl who stops in after school is selling. A lot of things are assumed.
But not by everyone. I think I probably make it sound like all of the teachers are mean to me. Let me get this straight. None of them are mean to me. However, that does not mean that they all like me. And honestly, the couple of teachers that I think don't like me - well, it doesn't really have anything to do with me. It has everything to do with the fact that I represent the US. I represent change. And I represent them losing their jobs. I did not take their job, and I might be gone by the time they lose it, but in their minds - I represent the change that will eventually cost them their teaching positions in this school. (Because they don't speak English).
I am actually quite friendly with most of the Honduran teachers at the school. I thought that the Estudios Sociales teacher and I would end up being friends, but with all the rumors that were flying through the school last month and all the warnings from other teachers, and the principal, and Veronica not to get too friendly and comfortable with them (because I'll tell them things that they will use against me later) - well, I decided to not pursue any of that, and she hasn't been too forthcoming since either. But yeah, I'm the Token White Girl. Never thought that would happen.


La Gringa said...

But they don't have to lose their jobs -- it's up to them, right? They have time to learn English and keep their jobs so they really shouldn't think it has anything to do with you. If anything, they should be mad at Veronica for changing it to a bilingual school.

Katrina said...

There is talk of English classes, and even talk of me teaching them, since I used to teach adult ESL classes. I´m not interested in teaching them to my fellow coworkers though. Will they learn English? I don´t know. Will they lose their jobs? I don´t know. Honestly, I think that they will probably lose their jobs for being so two faced and catty about everything before they lose them for not knowing English. The thing about it is, they are generally friendly with me. They have seemed to warm up to me some. But comments slip here and there that makes me know that they aren´t necessarily so friendly all the time behind my back. It has absolutely nothing to do with me personally. I´m just an easy scapegoat, like the whole thing with me missing the first 2 days of class in January.
It´s stupid and hard to understand. It´s Honduras. I love it here, but I think you know what I mean. :)

Katrina said...

And yes, it anyone, I guess they should be mad at Veronica. They don´t especially like her either. But all the Episcopal schools in Honduras are bilingual as far as I know. Holy Trinity was the last one to switch.