This column was not in my original plan for October. I was so excited to share with you all the pride I have in my Hispanic Heritage, in light of it being Hispanic Heritage month. My attention shifted shortly after I received an email and phone call from the Enumclaw High School principal.
For those unaware of what happened earlier this month, parents received an email, followed up with a phone call, from EHS Principle Dr. Rod Merrell. The title of the email/phone recording was “EXPECTATIONS FOR EHS SPECTAORS AT EVENTS”. (Yes, there was a spelling error.) It did not allude to the specifics of the incident. What captured my attention was the introduction: “EHS Student section engaged in fan behavior unbecoming of our high school or our community.” It continues on to share that there are better ways to be cheerleaders for our student athletes. “We can do this without denigrating others or creating situations that are unsafe for opposing athletes, fans, and staff.”
While I was not at this now-infamous volleyball game, I have read the several Facebook posts and their corresponding comments about what transpired, and I was disheartened at the many rude, cruel, and disenfranchising comments that were left by people who claim to be a part of this community.
So instead of celebrating my heritage, I feel I have to address how people of this community have treated me and my family because we are “different,” and how my own silence has helped perpetuate racism and bigotry on the Plateau.
First, I want to make clear that this column is not to blame any one person. My true heart is to be able to acknowledge that we have imperfections (as a community) and we need to bring these imperfections to the surface in order to move towards healing and resilience. Move towards extending grace even when it feels so undeserving. We all deserve grace.
This recent incident is not the first I have heard of, witnessed, and/or been a recipient of that has caused harm. As a parent of four amazing boys, all of which are currently attending ESD or have recently graduated (and have played in one sport or another) these stories of inequities, inequalities, bias, prejudice, and discrimination are not new to my family. We have grown thick skin and have had to let some things roll off our backs. Climbing a hill and fighting a battle is a choice and in the last near-decade, not a choice we have wanted or felt safe to bring to light.
Here is an example of what we have experienced. Most of, if not all, of my son’s teammates quickly labeled the Blanco family the “Bean” family. We were known as momma and poppa “Bean”. My sons were “nicknamed” Bean. As I became aware of this, I asked how this happened and why we were being called this name in which I was truly infuriated by.
What I learned is that while at practice one of my sons had an embarrassing moment: He passed gas. He is going to kill me for sharing this. What ensued after was laughter from both teammates and coaches. One student responded, we are going to call you “Bean”. “Bean, because you are Mexican and eat lots of beans and fart.”
Again, laughter ensued, from all present. We could have chosen to be offended or even make a complaint. However, my sons asked me to stay silent. So I did. They feared that if I complained they would lose their spot on the team, or even worse, like be called other names like “wetback” (which happened even in my silence). This is one of many examples we have had to endure and learned to tolerate.
Why am I choosing to acknowledge all this now? Tolerance can only carry you so far. My family has tolerated prejudice, racism, derogatory remarks, inequalities, and inequities in this community for years. Many times we have had to “laugh it off” out of fear of being targeted or retaliated against. Other times, when I find I can’t just turn the other cheek, it’s been a losing battle trying to get things to change, especially in our local schools.
Unfortunately, after many attempts to bring change, my fight for justice became laborsome. I felt like my voice was constantly swept aside; my concerns were concealed as “mishaps” or “misunderstandings”, and promises were made that things like this would never happen again.
Not realizing that I was not the only person or parent of children experiencing this harm, I gave in and began to tolerate the injustice and taught my children how to “tolerate” the same. It was the only way they would make it out of this district with some sanity.
Being silent is no longer an option. I made a commitment of transparency and authenticity when I began this journey of writing; writing allows me to acknowledge the harm and own my accountability while it also gives my readers space to ponder on the perspective being shared. It is a safe way to share my story without fear of being shut down, condemned, or shamed.
I can’t go at it alone, though. It takes a community to create change. And as a place to start, I want to use this space to raise both the voices of concern and the voices of opposition so they can come together and find resolution.
You may not be the one experiencing harm firsthand; you may even disagree that harm was done at all. But bashing each others’ lived experiences on social media is no better than saying that racism, bias, and inequality don’t exist here. They do. They will. And that won’t change until we stop buying into the norm of “I am right and you are wrong” and start embracing our differences and communing as a “people” towards common goals of justice, peace and liberty for all.
There are many great things about our community. If there weren’t, my spouse and I would have uprooted our family the first time we experienced bigotry on the Plateau.
However, I believe we can do better. And the best place to start is making your voice heard when you, or someone you see or know, is affected by prejudice.
I applaud ESD for finally acknowledging the harm that goes on in their buildings. No matter who instigated this last incident, the outcome was harm. We cannot build resilience if we don’t acknowledge the harm.
I will leave you with this: Get yourself out of your comfort zone. Change that is needed causes pain, and refinement doesn’t happen without walking through fire.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’” — Martin Luther King Jr.