I’m Not Sure If Living In Southeast TN Is Good For Latino Families

I’ve never experienced what I’m experiencing right now in America. A number of people in the town that I’m currently living classify me as a second class citizen not worth of their respect. In a period of two and a half years, I’ve been called a monkey, you people, and have experienced a number of non-verbal aggressions because of the way that I look and speak. I’m not used to that, I must add.  Let me make this clear for everybody. I’m a highly educated citizen of the United States who is fluent in english.

After living for 21 years in this country, I can attest to you that the general American public is overall very welcoming to those who come to this country legally and make the decision to becoming an American citizen the right way. I’ve done that! I followed the rules and went to the process of naturalization the right way. I still experience racism in this town from the poor cashier working at wall-mart to teachers at the local elementary school, despite the fact that I’m de facto an American.

Today, I went to a local elementary school to get my daughter Sophia who is participating in a children’s play at school. To my surprise, she wasn’t waiting for me in the school’s lobby where parents often stop by to get their kids after a school sponsored event day. I asked the standing teacher if the play rehearsal was over and whether my daughter Sophia was done with the play practice. The teacher decided to “speak” with me both verbally and non-verbally.

That’s where trouble began…

First, the teacher immediately stop looking at me and kept moving without destiny speaking at me with her back towards me, sometimes looking over her shoulders to see if I was paying attention to what she was saying. With a tone of superiority, she interrupted me every time I tried to communicate with her. The former was clearly a power play.

When a white fellow came into the door to get his daughter, she immediately left me to serve him, always looking at his eyes. Then a white mom came into the building… she treated her with much respect and regard. I wondered…

Like a good Christian man with morals, I ignored her offensive behavior towards me and asked her again if I could then get my daughter and go home. She then looked at me as if I was a career janitor and started moving quickly one more time “talking” with her back towards me again, with a diminishing voice tone

This time, I stopped and interrupted her to say… maybe we should see if my daughter is in her classroom. She looked grumpy at me then said that she was a second grade teacher and that she knew who my daughter was. On a click of an eye, there she was again walking in front of me with her back towards me and speaking as if I was an uneducated latino farmer going to her class in attempt to find Sophia.

At that point, I knew that our communication exchange was a lost cause. Clearly, she had a problem with my ethnicity. Being aware of this fact and to make things more pragmatic, I asked her directly if I could go to the after school program and see if my daughter was there. When I used a leadership voice tone with her, she got confused and wondered how a latino like me could speak with such authority at her. I politely ignored her non-verbal messages and kept walking.

What I don’t think she realized is that I’m a communication professor, who has served as in leadership positions in higher education, who is proficient in non-verbal communication and know how to speak with different kinds of people in a multitude of ways.

By the way…

I was right. Sophia was in the after school program’s room.  I finally got my child after 10 minutes of questionable communication exchange with this teacher. By the way, the teacher immediately left me and literally disappeared from the scene when I got into the room to see my kid. Go figure.

My conclusion…

I’m not sure if living in southeast TN is good for Latinos. This incident isn’t the first one I’ve experienced in Cleveland and I suspect won’t be the last. This town isn’t very friendly towards latino males and females. The racial climate against hispanics in this town is not very good.  If you look latin American in here, you are perceived to be of an inferior caste. It’s sad but it appears to me to be true.