I was recently talking to someone that attended Donna High School, in the early 1970’s. He was a friend of my dad’s family, who also went to that school during that era.
I was asking him about racism in the school system. He told me a story about how when he was in high school, he overheard all the white kids talking about going to college.
So he went to go talk to Mrs. Young, the school counselor, to ask what he needed to do to attend college as well.
"I would like to go to college but I don’t know anything about it or how to do it," [x] remembers telling her.
She responded by scaring him off by asking how much money his parents made, and suggesting that he simply couldn’t afford it.
"You might consider joining the military," is what [x] said Mrs. Young told him.
He ended up going to Pan American University (as it was known then), after he received some assistance from the honors program at that institution.
"As the years have gone by, I have run into all these other people that I went to school with, who said, ‘Yeah, the lady told me the same thing: Go in the service, don’t go to college, you can’t afford it.’ Then we found out that all the white kids, the teachers were writing letters of reference for them, helping them with their applications; doing this, doing that. They were helping them into the school system, and they were shutting us out. We didn’t know that (then). I didn’t understand that for a long time."
A few years ago, when he visited the Valley, he ran into some old classmates that lived in the north-side of Donna, as opposed to the area that was known then as “East Donna”. The north-side area was populated by white people and/or folks with money; the east-side area was where lower-income Mexican and Mexican-American’s resided in. My dad, when we were growing up, would always say that he was from “East Donna”. I didn’t understand until much later why he would say that and not just say “Donna”. [x] was surprised when he heard that even his middle-to-upper-class, more-Americanized-but-still-of-Mexican-descent classmates from the north-side suffered from the same type of racial discrimination.
"I thought it was just us, on the East Donna-side," [x] remembers. "[But my classmate] told me she said, ‘No, I’m not going to give you an application. If you go to school, you’re setting yourself up for failure.’"
After this conversation, I called my dad up on the phone. I was like, “I have a question for you,” or algo asi. Then right after I mentioned, “Do you remember a counselor…”, he busts out with the same story, about how she wanted him and all the students of Mexican-descent to join the military, to go fight in Vietnam. Only difference in my dad’s story was that he told it in Spanglish.