Voices of #PhysEd: Breaking Out of my Fish Bowl
First, let me start by introducing myself. My name is Jorge Rodriguez and I am currently a physical education teacher in Houston, Texas. I was born and raised in McAllen, TX, which is about 10 miles from the border of Mexico. My parents both immigrated to the United States from Mexico with little education and little money. They came seeking to be a part of the “American Dream” and to create a better life for themselves and their families. This is a noble and courageous endeavor for anyone, one that has unconsciously shaped my life in many ways.
Growing up in McAllen was very interesting and at times, challenging. With a population that is comprised of about 90% Hispanic and one of the highest poverty rates in the country; this was a fishbowl that I was very comfortable with. At first glance, I do not look like the typical Hispanic person from the Rio Grande Valley. I am tall, light-complected, and I have green eyes. It is safe to say I stood out in the crowd growing up. I played the role of the “white kid” and I was ok with that. Sure, I had my share of altercations because of the way I looked but I was ok with that too. I have always thought that some people are quick to judge you, and it depends on your ethical consistency to change their minds.
This mindset served me well in my little fish bowl, but after attending the University of Houston, my thoughts of the world were turned upside down. I had no idea about diversity or culture and I quickly realized that I had been swimming in circles for years. I also quickly realized how much influence my culture had on my life. I am Hispanic and very proud of that. I speak Spanish, love menudo, and occasionally still listen to Tejano music. In my experience, this was celebrated in Houston. This fishbowl was huge and full of all kinds of fish. I loved it!
Reflecting on my experience, however, I realize that there is a more global view when it comes to issues of inequity. The topic of inequity in our communities is often hard to talk about. It’s hard to deny that it is out there, but at the same time it is sometimes hard to put your finger on. Overt inequity is obviously easy to see, it’s the institutional and dysconscious forms that complicate the issue and are often times the most damaging. Because these forms of inequity are difficult to detect and understand they are also often allowed to exist and/or ignored. Looking back, I realize that I may have been a victim of certain injustices, and I also realize that I have allowed injustices to take place. A few weeks ago I heard the following quote from Lt. Gen. David Morrison, “The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept.” I heard the quote from a member of my PLN and it stuck with me. I think this is true not only in my professional life, but also my personal life. If we allow injustices and inequity to take place in our schools and in the communities we live, we are accepting that standard. This is true regardless of race, creed, sex, age or ethnicity. All people have the right to be treated fairly.
I recently saw a TED Talk entitled “A little problem I had renting a house.”
Fifty-three years ago, James A. White Sr. joined the US Air Force. But as an African American man, he had to go to shocking lengths to find a place for his young family to live nearby. He tells this powerful story about the lived experience of “everyday racism” — and how it echoes today in the way he’s had to teach his grandchildren to interact with police.
I wholeheartedly believe in Mr. White’s conclusion. We must come together as a society and not except this type of behavior any longer. The only way to stop this is to eliminate the divide. We must appeal to humanity and dignity and come together to raise the standard that we accept. We must break out of our fish bowls to truly live together.