Photo via Marist High School Chicago / Facebook
Recently, an incident occurred at Marist High School – a private Catholic school in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood – that prompted junior Elizabeth Pacheco to reassess her relationship with her classmates.
At the school’s graduation ball, the DJ chose to play a song in Spanish, âPayaso de Rodeoâ by Caballo Dorado. Instead of having fun and dancing like they had done with the previous songs, a large group of students knelt down during the song in âprotestâ.
Shocked by this disrespectful behavior, Elizabeth Pacheco, of Mexican descent, took a video of the kneeling students and posted it on Instagram.
âYou email us asking for photos of our families during Hispanic Heritage Month. You hang our papel picado banners all over the school, âshe wrote. âIf you love our food, our ethnic fashion and our energy so muchâ¦ why do you blame us. How would you like us to kneel down to your country music? Pacheco later said The Chicago Sun-Times that she also heard classmates making derogatory remarks about Mexicans while the song was playing.
The video went viral, quickly racking up 15,000 (at the time of this writing, it had nearly 300,000 views) and sparking outrage online. Commentators and viewers were frustrated that even now, after the events of 2020, students could be so blatantly intolerant of different cultures.
“Absolutely disgusting. Preach for equality and change and always don’t do anything when oppression is happening right in front of them @maristchicago,” one Instagram user wrote on Pacheco’s post.
“They equate a knee that represents social injustice and racial inequality to kneeling down for a song just because it’s not in their language?” Sad, âwrote another.
Even comedian George Lopez stepped into the action, reposting the video on his Instagram page and writing: âHate and discrimination are TAUGHT AND LEARNED. You cannot separate US from the things of OUR culture that you choose to embrace. It saddens me @ elizabethpacheco93 must have experienced RACISM when she should be having fun, but I’m also proud of the way she behaved.
In response to the general outcry, the administration of the Marist high school issued a statement condemning the behavior of the students.
“We recognize and apologize for the harm this incident has caused our students, staff, alumni and the many others who have expressed their feelings regarding the video posted on social media,” they said. They later defended the incident, explaining that the students knelt down during songs throughout the homecoming dance, protesting a myriad of songs they didn’t like. “Payaso de Rodeo” was one of the many songs they “protested”.
But events have already sparked a small revolution in the Marist high school. Latino students were passionate, ready to make their voices heard in light of this viral incident. Some Marist students staged a march and protest in front of the school, holding up signs and waving Mexican flags to show pride in their heritage.
Yet Pacheco is shaken by the incident and sees the events of the past few days as a wake-up call.
To kneel ? What backward protest is this? Pretty sad students disrupting a homecoming party to a song in Spanish! I wonder if these students are learning from their parents’ behavior these days! Does the Marist Council and staff have a lot to explain?
– Like I said (@AsIWas_Saying) 12 October 2021
âI never thought that would happen to me one day, especially in a school where I felt safe and appreciated and with friends – whom I considered friends,â she said. The Chicago Sun-Times. âTo see them kneel down and disrespect who I amâ¦ and the culture I representâ¦ it doesn’t feel good. “
What Pacheco doesn’t want is all of this swept under the rug. She wants the incident and the public outrage to be a learning time for her fellow students who have disrespected her culture. “You can say I’m sorry [and] get punished, but then you go home and do the exact same thing, âshe told The Sun-Times. âThey need to understand and be educated that it was wrong. I want them to open their hearts to us and our culture.
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