Anaheim High Schoolers Give Themselves a Lesson in Racism

Monday, August 27, 2012

A high school in the race-torn city of Anaheim has canceled an annual seniors week event that featured students dressed as demeaning Latino stereotypes and U.S. border patrol agents.

There will be no more swaggering gang members, gardeners or pregnant women with baby-strollers to lighten up the June “Seniores and Señoritas” festivities at Canyon High School, where 55% of the students are white and 16% are Latino. School officials canceled the party after complaints a former student triggered an investigation by the Orange County Unified School District.

The 3-year-old event was sanctioned by school administrators who determined that even with strict guidelines, such an event would still be “hurtful and demeaning . . . to the students of the Mexican, Hispanic and Latino descent.” Pictures of the parties were posted on Facebook and included in the school’s yearbook.

School officials canceled the event after former student Jared Garcia-Kessler filed a written complaint. Garcia-Kessler said he was inspired to speak up after taking a course in Chicano studies at Santiago Canyon College which emphasized that leadership from a single individual, like labor leader Cesar Chavez, can make a difference in society.

Anaheim has suffered through a summer of intense racial animosity, highlighted by two fatal police shootings of Latinos (one a gang member), angry demonstrations at police headquarters and a highly-contentious city council vote on reorganizing the political structure.

The city, which is 53% Latino and split between wealthy white enclaves and poor minority districts, is run by an all-white city council whose members are elected at-large. The council rejected a call earlier in the month to switch to a district voting system, favored by every other large city in California.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California filed a lawsuit in June that Anaheim was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act. Only three Latinos have ever been elected to the city council.

–Ken Broder    


To Learn More:

Student's Conscience Fuels Mexican Day Complaint (by Ron Gonzales, Orange County Register)

Latino Activists Condemn “Seniores and Senoritas” Day (by Anh Do, Los Angeles Times)

Anaheim High School Cancels Events Found to be Demeaning (by Robert J. Lopez, Los Angeles Times)

City Council in Race-Torn Anaheim Rejects Switch to Voting Districts (by Ken Broder, AllGov)

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