“Nazis. I hate these guys.”
This year Nazis keep coming up, and it annoys the crap out of me.
Earlier in the fall in two separate class, on two separate days, two different boys gave the Nazi salute. It may help to tell you that I work in a high school that is over 90% Hispanic. And yes, both boys were Hispanic. But no matter the race, my reaction would have been the same.
You! Outside NOW!
Me: (in my mother voice) What did you do? Do you think that was respectful? Do you think that was appropriate? For my classroom? For public? Do you even know what that sign means?
Boy: (finally saying something instead of shaking his head, in a whisper voice looking at his feet) It’s just the Nazi salute Miss.
Me: (in my mother voice) “Just the Nazi salute?” Do you know what the Nazis stood for? The one pure race. Which they believed would be white. They believed all others inferior and preferred them dead. They would want you dead. And by doing that sign, you are saying you agree. With. Them.
Boy: (snaps up head to finally look me in the eye) But it was just an old German thing.
Me: No. They are Nazis still very much alive and active and everywhere. (At this point, the boy’s eyes go round.) And you are saying you’re a race traitor.
Boy: I’m… I’m sorry, Miss.
Me: And I (The Voice) Don’t ever want to see THAT sign in my class A. GAIN. (Normal teacher voice) Am I clear?
Boy: Yes, Miss. I’m sorry, Miss. I won’t do it again.
And after the second time, it hasn’t happened since.
While I hesitate to mention my work on my Mommy Blog, it brings me to what has been happening in Tornado E’s grade. With 6th graders. In a school across town with a 70% white majority. With a middle class background.
Tornado E has been coming home with some interesting stories.
Mama, the boys are talking about the Nazis. They think they’re cool. I don’t think they’re cool. I don’t like this, Mama.
So and so thinks Hitler was funny. I told him Hitler was evil, not funny. I don’t think he believed me.
Mama, so and so drew a swastika, and all the boys laughed. No, Mama, he erased it before the teacher saw.
Mama, so and so put a finger under his noise and said he was Hitler. The boys laughed. I keep telling them it’s not funny.
Mama, one of the boys said “Heil, Hitler” to one of the boys. No, Mama, the teacher didn’t hear. I don’t like this, Mama.
So the boys and I have had talks about race and privileged. We’ve talked about what to do when we are in a group of people who are saying bad things. We’ve talked about how to confront our friends. And I decided this had to stop.
Only I dropped the ball, being a busy mom and teacher. Until I was at a 6th grade field trip, eating alone, recharging my batteries, sitting in a corner, watching the dynamics, listening.
Mumble, mumble, Nazi, mumble, weapons. Laughter. Mumble, Nazis, mumble, mumble. Laughter. Nazis, mumble, mumble. Mumble, mumble, Nazi weapons.
With the first Nazi that reached my ear, I locked on to the group of boys who were sitting far enough away from me that I couldn’t hear every word and further still from every adult, especially the teachers. So I watched them, listening. I watched them laugh and have a good time. The inflection was not what you want boys to be using when speaking of Nazis. I had enough.
So I went to the teachers and told them all about what I heard through the year so far and that Tornado E was being put into a rough spot, having to moniter his peers. I told them how I had handled it and learned that many of the kids had no idea how serious this conversation was and suggested that it be dealt as a class issue. The teachers agreed and thanked me.
Two weeks went by.
Mama, one of the boys dared another boy to do the Nazi salute. So he did. And then a bunch of them did it behind a teacher’s back.
Oh for Christ sake.
I immediately sat down and wrote the teacher about the incident.
I got a reply from the teacher a few hours later apologizing for not talking to the social studies teacher, promising it will be addressed with all the classes.
I haven’t heard of an incident since. But I swear if I do, I will march into that principal’s office first thing and demand that this nonsense end.
Man, I hate Nazis.