Frustrated Mama Lioness Myriad says RAWR.
We had some people over for dinner tonight, R. and her husband M., whom we’ve known for basically my whole life. They also know about my career woes (although it’s pretty obvious to anyone who notices, hey, 22-year-old postgrad living with her parents). R. asked if I had found work and where I was working, so I told them I was doing some tutoring in the local high school, and launched into the short-version explanation of AVID.
“Wait, so is this for the kids who are really doing well, or the kids who really aren’t doing well?” R. wanted to know.
“Well, neither,” I explained with an internal sigh; someday, somewhere, I will meet someone who actually knows what the AVID/TOPS program is, and I will be ecstatic.
“The program is geared to minorities, kids from low income families, or who come from homes where English isn’t the primary language,” I elaborated. “Basically, kids who are less likely to apply to college, to get into college, and then to graduate from college.”
“So, losers,” said M.
I was flabbergasted.
Well, internally flabbergasted; when you’re a liberal hippie Pagan feminist with conservative relatives, you get used to hiding your shock at the unfortunate things some people say. Mom came to the rescue at this point, saying, “No, not losers; kids who want to be winners.”
“Oh, okay, losers who want to be winners.”
Rather than beating my head against the table in sheer frustration (though I might have, if I hadn’t had a plateful of casserole right where my forehead would have landed), I commenced a detailed explanation of the AVID program. I don’t know that I completely got the message across, but I think R. was convinced, even if M. wasn’t.
But really. Losers. You’re calling my kids, my kids who haven’t had many, or any of the advantages you took for granted, but who are still determined to succeed in spite of all of that, LOSERS?
You’re the effing loser, you jackass.
People’s reactions to my job, and to the AVID/TOPS program, vary, but it’s usually all summed up as ‘Oh, you’re doing a good thing!’ (With varying undertones of white middle-to-upper class privilege.) But this was the first time I was really overtly confronted with the attitude the AVID/TOPS students face far too often.
Losers. LOSERS. LOSERS?!?!
It is not polite to deck one’s dinner guests. It is not polite to deck one’s dinner guests. It is not polite to deck one’s dinner guests, nor is it smart, when one is so weak one is likely to break one’s hand attempting to deck one’s dinner guests. It is not polite to deck one’s dinner guests…
It’s easy for me, as a quasi-outsider, to look in at the AVID kids and say, “Oh, they don’t have much confidence in themselves. Oh, their community doesn’t believe in them.” What I hadn’t realized, not until I was directly confronted with it, is that so much of the educated community doesn’t believe in them, either.
And to me, somehow, that’s the worst thing of all. To know that so many of the people who are educated and intelligent and successful and should be open-minded (we’re talking about college lecturers, here!) and should admire these kids for their determination and should want to help them succeed…the people who have always told me, the white daughter of two overeducated parents, that I could do anything and have always been willing to help me succeed…to know that they would automatically write most of the AVID students off because they’re not white, or because they’re poor…
I don’t know whether I’m angry, or sad, or ashamed. All of them, probably, as well as frustrated. Because I’m realizing more and more how many of the people of my socio-economic-ethnic group, even those who have lived in my uber-liberal-hippiesville hometown for decades, are seriously prejudiced. They hide it better than others, even–or perhaps especially–from themselves, but they are seriously prejudiced.
Everyone has prejudices; everyone stereotypes, to a certain degree. It’s human nature. I know I certainly have my fair share of assumptions I make about people based on their appearance or job or speech patterns. But I try, as best as I can, to be aware of my prejudices, to challenge them, and to keep them from influencing my interactions with people as much as possible. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m doing my best.
But these people, these people who don’t even realize that they are prejudiced, let alone that maybe they should try to challenge their assumptions… these are the people my kids are going to have to deal with for the rest of their lives. My kids are going to have to fight to convince these people that they actually have worth, because the color of their skin or their accent or their parents’ income level doesn’t match with the stereotypical picture of a successful American. And that is just plain WRONG.
If these students can fight past the language barriers and the unhealthy communities and the lack of opportunities to join the educated elite, they should be welcomed. They should be celebrated as examples of determination and scholarship and the American spirit. These kids are going to be doctors and lawyers and teachers and computer programmers and graphic designers and therapists and police officers and biologists and so many other fantastic, rewarding things. They are going to give so much back to society. The least society could do is have a little faith in them.
I look at my kids, and I see many things in them. I see that they have so much potential, they have great senses of humor, they sometimes drive me up the wall, they’re determined, they’re easily frustrated, they’re wonderful souls and every once and a while they make me want to scream with frustration. They have their good days and there bad days, like everyone else, and hey, they are teenagers. Once I push past the hormonal craziness, I see an astounding group of truly amazing kids.
There’s one thing I never see in them, and one thing I will never see. They are NOT losers.
This rant brought to you by the letter Q, the number 3, Frustrated Mama Lioness Myriad and her dumbbell of an acquaintance. Frustrated Mama Lioness Myriad is now going to bury the rest of her frustration in ice cream. Or possibly alcohol.