One day back in high school, during my sophomore year, the day progressed normally and we were eventually dismissed for lunch. Keeping with my normal routine, I went to get my food and sat down at the usual table with my closest friends. Part way through our lunch, our principal was giving a tour of the school and stopped into the cafeteria with a family which was planning to move to the area and was checking out perspective schools. If I remember correctly, there were two adults and three high-school-aged children.
Before I continue with my story, let me give you a little background about my high school. It’s located in a small town of less than 2000 people, very traditional – predominantly white. In fact, the entire school district was white; we had one student of another race attend and he managed to stay for about a month, but that’s another story. My sophomore year would have been in the 2001-2002 school year, still very spiteful of the 9/11 attacks.
Back in the cafeteria, our principal had just brought this new family in for a tour. I noticed before most people. I noticed that the family appeared well educated, well dressed, presentable, responsible, and probably fairly well off. They seemed interesting and I thought I should get to know these people if they decided to enroll in our school. They were engaging in conversation with our principal; He never did introduce them. That’s what I noticed.
Everyone else noticed that there was group of people from Afghanistan standing in the entryway to our cafeteria. It didn’t take long to raise a riot. Most people stood up from their lunch tables, staring in disgust. Soon after the “booing” started –so did the food throwing. The family left immediately, not to say I blame them in anyway. Our principal never said word, especially not to punish us. I got the impression he probably agreed with the “booing”, food flinging racists.
I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing. See, I had just moved to that school a few years prior. Before that, I lived in another part of the country. Students in my school there were mainly of Native American or Mexican decent. I don’t have a problem with other racial groups because I grew up around several different kinds. I didn’t realize at the time of this incident that our country, the melting pot, a place where all ethnic groups supposedly want to come to make a home for themselves, still contained so much racial hatred, especially among the younger generations.
My message to everyone is that not all people belonging to ethnic groups that we give stereotypes to – traitors, terrorists, freeloaders, etc – are bad people. I see people treating other people in this manner every day. But, what I truly believe, is that we are all equals and should be treated equally be everyone regardless of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or financial status. Equal is equal.