Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Clash Of Culture at Girls Basketball

Today we travel to the big, amazingly rich private Christian school and its massive edu-athletic complex on top of a hill that I used to think was a community college back when I actually lived in the 408, before the commuting began. The place, seriously, is massive, encompassing the entire surface of a not insignificant plateau, and requiring a series of switchbacks to get the bus to the top. If it's not yet clear, the place literally oozes wealth. Their teams, incidentally, have not lost in a very long time, something we should attribute to their ability to, you know, actively recruit.

Last year, they traveled to us, and man, the looks on those girls' faces as they walked through the dingy hallways of the youth center, with their floor to ceiling murals of Aztec pyramids, volcanoes, members of the raza holding aloft fists dangling broken chains and asserting a variety of freedoms that probably seemed somewhat threatening. I attribute the timidity that allowed us to stay close almost entirely to environmental factors (and some textbook zone defense). Now it's our turn, with the girls just freaking out. Their reaction to the sudden burst of affluence was expected and understandable, but the exposure to rich white kids really threw them. I was a little disappointed, actually, and somewhat sad they were so freaked out. "You seen white people before," I say. "But not this many," they say. And they're right; this made clear how (ethnically) insular their community is. "They wear the same clothes, listen to the same music, and talk about the same things you do," I say. "The only difference is their parents have more money. And who cares about that? Focus on you, on your responsibilities today, on representing yourself, your school and your communitiy... "

But it wasn't until they came back from the bathrooms with their eyes like dinnerplates: "There are 17 stalls! Seventeen!" that we see the true differences. I started thinking how little of the world they have actually seen, that some professional landscaping and above average bathrooms produce wonder, and a topic of conversation that was still going on at 6:15 on the bus ride back. I mean, seriously, we gotta get these kids out into the world. Or at least downtown 408.

Later, I'm keeping the book next to a parent volunteer, who twice drops mention of the fact that annual tuition for his kids to go to middle and high school exceeds my annual pre-tax salary. Not that he knows what my salary is -- I made that connection on my own. He's a nice guy, but a fairly typical suburban elitist simultaneously trying to appear just-us-guys and unquestionably superior. The eighth graders are putting up a fight, behind our point guard having the game of her life, and during out conversation, he drops a few near-sighted comments:

1) "Not much parent support huh? They don't come out for the team?"

And then, after point guard hits a three and he compliments her shooting...

2) "Is she a good kid?'

For number one he just doesn't get it, and I responded with something along the lines of "a lot of people with a lot of kids working a lot of jobs." The second one pissed me off a little, because if we were from a different school and those girls looked different, with well-coifed parents in the stands, better shoes, and lighter skin, somehow I don't think that was a question he would have asked.

"They are all good kids," I said, a maybe the tone was a little cold and the stressed words a little pointed, because he started babbling and when he was finished, stopped talking to me.


By the way, the Department of Defense is way off with the water-boarding, sleep-deprivation, and threats of sexual violation. You wanna get suspected "terrorists" talking, just stick em on a bus with two dozen 13 year old girls and drive around for a while. Those guys would roll over on their mothers.


Blogger posthipchick said...

perhaps THIS is the good news about becoming a parent when you're a public school teacher- you will never be able to afford to be one of "those" parents.

are there any moms that teach at your school? just curious.

8:51 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...

Weird. I've never thought about that. Ten females, three mothers.

I think the other good news is being able to say things at parent teacher conferences like "What are your plans to differentiate to meet my child's learning modalities?"

9:05 PM  
Blogger Anonymouph said...

As the tennis coach at my high school, I've had many similar conversations with the parents and coaches from other teams. I hate it when they assume that, because I'm white, I see it their way. "Wow," they say, "your girls are so well-behaved."

I want to say, "What did you expect?" But I know what they expected of my all-black team.

I usually give my athletes the whole, "Prove them wrong...show them you're not who they think you are" speech, but I get so frustrated that I even have to say this, that I have to worry that the other coaches expect my kids to misbehave.

7:04 PM  

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