I went to high school in the idyllic hamlet of Glendora, where local teacher Ken Bencomo was recently fired from St. Lucy’s Priory High School for marrying his husband. The only thing that surprises me about this situation is that students are protesting in favor of their gay teacher, and not against him.
Glendora, California is the first place I ever heard a beaner joke. The cashier at the local Albertsons told it to me, and I went home and locked the door. Because what the fuck kind of backwards hick-bullshit hell hole has my mother moved me to? Not that Duarte, city of high school stroller parking was really the superior choice for my continued public school education. And not like the streets of D-town were all that loving and accepting of outsiders. But it’s different when the only minority face you’ve seen for days is your own and white people think it’s funny to say really racist shit at you when you’re all. by. yourself.
I realize that given my tragic lack of color, they probably thought “we” were alone, but it’s still really intimidating.
Freshman year at Glendora High, I came in with several other black and Latino kids but one by one they started to disappear. I found out the dean was having them all “voluntarily” transferred to continuation school when she tried to transfer me as well. My mother, who never finished 10th grade was almost convinced that continuation would be a better place for a girl like me, and while it would at least have been less racially uncomfortable to matriculate among my fellows, I was able to illustrate that continuation was not a college path. Information the dean was not keen on sharing. This happened before the first grades came out, where I got As and Bs without effort. Her decision that I didn’t belong in her school was based entirely on my appearance, my ethnic sounding name and the fact that I’d recently earned myself a Saturday school.
It could be said that I looked like trouble. I was a punk and I had no hair on my head, but there were a hundred other white punks that didn’t get sent to continuation, or at least they only got sent after years of continual fuck ups. It should also be said that she was not just enthusiastic about sending the ethnic kids to continuation, she was also really into getting rid of the poor ones. By sophomore year, if you were poor or a person of color at Glendora High, it was because you were either really smart, or on one of our terrible sports teams.
My high school was a safe space for racism.
For example, you have to be a special kind of insular moron to be a neo-nazi in America in this day in age. (How in the hell are you born in the 80s and think “I know, I’ll be the bad guy from every cartoon and action movie I’ve ever seen!” That is a dumb individual, and Glendora is filled with them.) I had a habit of crossing out all the swastikas I found around school. My average was about three a day.
I went to class with people who wrote “WHITE PRIDE” on their notebooks. I can’t tell you how many times I had to have serious classroom discussions on why there can’t be White History Month. Usually these discussions had a lot of “factual” statements about how people of color were fundamentally different from white people. Never in a positive way. And I’ve had white teachers get upset with me for being angered by this line of discussion. Because you can say the most racist shit to a Mexican girl’s face, and as long as your tone stays steady, you’re the rational white person and the display of emotion that girl responds with proves your point. Not that getting upset accomplished anything. The first rule of hanging out with racists in groups is never to look upset. Don’t get uppity; Get even.
Senior year my friend and I had our lockers next to each other and somebody wrote “DYKE” on mine and “FAGGOT” on his. Undeterred (this wasn’t my first time at the DYKE graffiti rodeo), I wrote “THE DYKE THAT FUCKS YOUR MOM” on mine and “FAGGOTS HAVE BIGGER COCKS” on his. School administration, who had about a week to get rid of the slurs, painted over the new messages overnight. So I wrote it again.
What am I saying here? That Glendora is a hotbed of bigotry and ignorance and that the white people that moved there in the 70s and the 80s to get away from populations of color taught their weird racist entitlement to their children, who are equally shitty. Is everybody in Glendora a useless fuckbag? Hardly. I had a ton of awesome teachers and friends despite the moron majority. But if you’re a racist, and you’re looking for a place to raise the next generation of homophobic neo-nazi scum, I have a suggestion for a place you might enjoy.