Prejudice: Still Alive and Kicking

January 8, 2008
By
Throughout the years, minorities have grown very acquainted with unfair treatment as a result of racial discrimination, as well as missed opportunities. The accounts are endless. Everyday we hear the stories of unfair treatment. As a society, many fail to realize how serious these stories are until they have experienced this unfair treatment themselves. Until I faced discrimination, I was oblivious to how much of a serious problem unfair treatment was as well. However, I would soon realize that discrimination on all levels resulted in unfair treatment and unequal opportunity.

My first personal account of discrimination was during my eighth grade year, when I attended a private, Catholic school for the first time in my life. Although the school was Catholic, they allowed students of other religions to attend, as long as they agreed to study and respect the Catholic religion. Excited to partake in a new religious experience, I gladly agreed and prepared to learn the ins-and-outs of the Catholic religion and experience what a Catholic education truly had to offer. After becoming comfortable with my surroundings and learning more about Catholicism, I realized that the Catholic school setting was great, until one dreadful day.

One day, my teacher left our class for about an hour to help construct the Christmas display in the hallway. Like any group of normal teenagers with no designated or assigned tasks would, we attempted to occupy our time. Some of us drew on the chalkboard, whereas others played board games. There was no real harm in what we were doing; another teacher even occasionally checked on us and had nothing negative to say. However, as some of us continued to draw and write on the board, the situation went from completely innocent to rude and inappropriate for no reason.

The girls of the class decided to compile a list of possible gift ideas for our teacher. Each new suggestion was written on the board. Some suggested candles whereas others suggested bath items. However, one girl, we'll call her Jane, attempting to be comedic, suggested dog waste. As Jane laughed, another student decided to alert the teacher. Unaware of the teacher’s entrance, Jane continued to laugh as she erased what was on the board, but before the suggestion was fully erased, the teacher saw it. As the teacher looked at her with a stern face, Jane immediately denied writing it. When asked who wrote it, she responded by naming five out of nine girls, including me, whom were not Catholic. Unsure of what to do, our teacher immediately called our principal, as well as the Father, who was somewhat of a superintendent, to assess the situation.
Immediately after contacting both administrators, the class sat quietly, anticipating what would happen next. When the principal entered the room, she began to lecture us on disrespect, actions and consequences. However as Father entered the room, he began to look for answers. Unfortunately, he looked in the wrong place. He asked the students what happened and everybody, with the exception of Jane told a similar story. Apparently he did not trust our answers, so he asked the teacher. She explained that she walked in to see a group of girls surrounding the chalkboard as Jane was erasing. She also said, “Even though Jane was laughing, I do not think she wrote it. Given that she has a good, Catholic, upbringing, I am almost positive that she was just erasing what appeared to be ignorant and inappropriate for our class.” Father looked at the non-Catholic students with a look of disgust as he called the students named by Jane to his office.

Walking up to Father’s office, I continued to think about what my teacher said. “…a good, Catholic, upbringing?” Was she implying that other religions were inferior or not as “good?” As Father began to talk about how wrong our actions were, we all attempted to tell our side of the story. However, he would not let us. He also presented us with an ultimatum of writing a ten-page paper on respect and what is appropriate for a Catholic school along with janitorial duties after school or being expelled from school. He also explained that all of our parents would be contacted regarding our behavior.

What happened was shocking to me. I could not believe or understand why a school that based all of its teachings as well as its foundation on Catholicism would treat students so unfairly. Then after considering the circumstances, I realized that all five of us were victims of discrimination. Jane was catholic, and so were the other four girls in the class. I believe that this happened because we were not Catholic, therefore we were looked at as inferior and automatically guilty in the eyes of those who are. I think that my principal, teacher, and Father were all ignorant to the fact that the Catholic religion is not the only good religion, nor are its believers the most holy. Jane was living proof of this theory. She did something that we, the non-Catholics found inappropriate, but because she was Catholic, it was almost excused.

I told my mother about what happened as soon as I got home that day. She did not believe me until she talked with the other girls who had also been punished. Realizing that we were being treated unfairly, the other girls and I decided to get our parents together to take a stance against this discrimination. Our parents decided to address administrators of our school to solve the problem. The administrators denied unfairly punishing as they tried to convince our parents that we were as guilty as they claimed. However, our parents did not believe them and demanded an immediate apology, retraction of punishment, and punishment of Jane. The administrators did not meet their demands.

As a result of demands not being met, our parents contacted all parents of students at my school. More stories of discrimination against non-Catholic students surfaced and caused more controversy. As somewhat of a boycott, many students transferred to other Catholic schools to finish the year. My friend’s parents also contacted a local newspaper to alert them in detail of what was going on. Although the story never made newspaper headlines, things did change at that school. They lost thirty three percent of students which caused a lack of funding. The cost of attendance rose after that causing more students to transfer. Although I am unsure if conditions improved as a result of our efforts, I know that things changed immensely at that school.





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