I don’t know what made my brain connect the memory, perhaps it is because it is the least convinient time ever for me to go, “Oh… hey… institutionalized racism, fail on you Estancia New Mexico!” I swear, that town is the most ism fueled town I have ever seen. That is the town where I was burned at the stake, oh yeah, I am naming names now bitches. I should admit, my dear readers that I was angry before then. Between reading a crap ton of sexism about Zsa Zsa Gabour, my computer still acting up and so badly that I lost more data, more time, and had to reinstall things, and the rain… I woke up from my mad thinking it was six am, and suddenly this anger slammed into me. Likely I was triggered in my sleep but this anger was here first, not the idea, so my reaction may be disproportionate. Or not.
My revelation comes at the hands of my mother, I woke up and my first conscious thought was about the Gifted Program, a term I use lightly, and the special ed program. It was one shrouded in thunder like a horror movie revelation. Why were there no children of color in either program? Are you telling me that out of the majority of hispanic children there were no gifted kids? Wrong. Fail. Nope. This doesn’t seem factual, when some of the barbie doll white girls in my class were put back in regular cycles because they could not actually keep up with the school work and the gifted program was an at your own pace sort of class. Even the teacher, though she did a bang up job and did address racism, was the aryan dream. Well the first one we had was too but she was full of fail and was fired for being creepy, and has almost no bearing on my memories of the Gifted Program. Thunder Thunder.
I remember everyone they pulled out for IQ testing, and as an adult i know that the tests used were skewed not in my favor or in the favor of accuracy but these tests hailed from the days when white people tried to prove with science that black people and other “races” are just plain stupid. I am so glad that these tests failed but at the same turn there are more accurate assessments of a child’s needs and these tests were easily skewed. In fact, I remember clearly how angry the test assessor was that I passed the test and was deemed to be a genius. The twitching, the muttering with the principle who I clearly heard say, “Then we’ll have to deal with her and her mother, but you couldn’t just lie?” I asked what for, and that was it, I was stamped “Gifted but Troubled, beware the contents of this package”.
The thing is, they only TESTED THE WHITE KIDS. Each of us was taken one at a time, and it was announced on the PA. I won’t name their names, as these children did nothing to deserve being used as pawns for racism, but hello… the superintentendet was antisemitic, and clearly so, something I was aware of before the end of the first year of the gifted program. We were stuck in a windowless room our first year, with the teacher that was very much lost in her own illness both physical and mental, and mostly just futzed around. The cool part was when one of the boys’ fathers, who works at or worked at the time Sandia National Labs brought in a truckload of monitors, keyboards, and broken towers. Our job? Reprogram them, make them run then brand new XP, the Labs funded this, and set up the entire school district with an internet worthy network.
I was born for this. Though it was clear very rapidly my hands weren’t my mind was. I took over, and we split up into areas where we each excelled, I was the head programmer, and another person who was also less strong and agile helped me. We wiped hard drives, expanded ram, and essentially took several hundred computers, and mutated them into two hundred computers. Last time I asked, my brother and sister told me these are still the computers in use in that educational system. My teacher was fired, though possibly illegally I think there was more to it than I know. The next year we had windows and the teacher that I dream about often. Not sexually but as a guide.
She is still alive so I know this is just my imagination, but Miss S was the first teacher to teach me anything. I remember how surprised she was when for a project that required basic math, I asked for help. That was the first time I spoke in her class to say something productive, and the first time I asked for help. She had me stay in during lunch, and bought me pizza and we used pizza to get the problems solved. She then asked me if I wanted to type all of my assignments. Type? Really? I could use a format that didn’t send pain shooting through me and was so distracting that I could think my work through? I never said yes, instead I let out a squeak and ran away. All my assignments for all classes were then typed, printed, and I completed homework even in that year.
Yet still, all of my classmates were white. Not all of them turned out to be gifted, despite this test. I have had my IQ tested several times and with several tests, and I am left to wonder, why weren’t any of the hispanic students tested? Our future valedictorian was hispanic, and I think she was gifted. Sure she was mean to me, but everyone was and if you weren’t mean to me it was social suicide. I understand that as an adult, and maybe have forgiven some of the kids who confused me by being nice to me alone, but if someone else was around out and out cruel. I can think of several students, especially in English and Math, that didn’t even have to think about the work as they learned it, they more than excelled.
None of the hispanic kids in my class actually left that town. All of them are trapped in tendrils of what is institutionalized failure. I know that my mother probably didn’t see it as racism as she said “Now you don’t have to be with them” but I did think she meant the horrible hispanic children. There are a lot of racist moments in my family as we know and a lot of moments where my mother failed but she actually fought for the gifted program to exist, because it was what I needed. My older brother also could have benefited but by the time she won this fight he was gone. I don’t think she would have done it for just me, but maybe? Maybe.
I asked the then Superintendent about it, and the answer I had was, “Well you are just smarter than them.” Them again. How can you know without testing? How? It makes absolutely no sense. I knew I was smarter than most of my classmates but I had some doubts. Sure I was the smartest in the gifted program but as an adult I still cannot add or subtract without a great deal of struggle and even then I have to use a calculator to verify my results. I have been told that is Autism which is ableim when said, just like my white skin automatically makes me worthy of the funding for this test.
I have no doubts I am smart, not many do. In fact the general presumption people have when meeting me is that I have several degrees. I don’t have any, which bothers me, because I wonder… if I was hispanic, black, or a person who is of First Nations descent, wouldn’t they presume I worked at taco bell, or am faking disability for the benefits? Is this why no one was tested but the handful of white students, and some of those were bumped up for appearances?
The popular girls were actually thrust into this class, and only two could stick it out. I remember the two that did because they were nice to me even infront of others after a month in the class. I think they saw that there was more to me than the beligerant and mean student who targeted every weak point with military prescision. In fact it was those girls that gave me some good memories of school, in the very cliched hollywood way that things went down. They could keep up with the advanced work, and yet… again… with the boys the entire football team was tested, the head cheerleader and football guy, no idea his position but I know it was his thing and he banked his future on it. They came into the class and were lost with some very basic things, which in the test you had to have in order to be used. Reading. Writing.
I am not saying they cannot be gifted, but how can you take a test that is WRITTEN if you cannot read it? They certainly didn’t read the questions to me. Theyhanded me the test and said I had all afternoon to complete it. I didn’t need that much time, which lead to another argument, me having to retake the test because I had to have cheated… but… you have to be able to read to do it.
That bothered me then, though then I thought it was just their popularity that got them in. Now I think it was the whiteness of their skin. Would my mother have even managed to make federally mandated special education programs availible if she wasn’t white? I doubt it. I think on that town and how everyone with any power is white. The mayor? WhiteyMcwhiterton, the superintendant? Hispanic last name but she has gone off the deep end with the bleach and presented as white. She may still be the super but I don’t care enough to check. The principals? Only one was not white. The high school principle also used his whiteness to bully teenage girls into sex acts. The track coach? Same. His kid may not want me believing that but I knew the man, and I never trusted him alone because of his grabby hands. Sorry, no need to name names, a simple google search reveals all.
This town, this town so chock full of religious extremism, racism, and of course crime… more crime than I can believe… this town also has the worst educational record in the state that often is the worst or second to worst. No point in differentiating when you are last out of fifty, and this school is last out of however many my state has?
Now, there is something else that I remember. I wasn’t put back in the gifted program in Highschool but instead the special education program, which I was familiar with. There I found most of the white football players from the gifted program’s first year… and a lot of hispanic kids that did know the basics of reading, writing, and had no actual issues that I could see. They were just deemed less than. My reason for being dubbed inferior was having mental health issues, though I still had my freshman year made of awesome between winning a national computing award and being valentines princess (Prom Queen equivalent). Still, the kids from special ed that I knew in Middle School, some of whom I kept in contact with after the advent of becoming “Gifted” because hey, lets make a term othering and one that can cause the majority of students to feel bad too…
None of those kids were in these classes. They were in a third level class, where they had even less instruction than the special ed class. I think that they tried to rename it remedial everything but that was too little too late by the time theyear was most of the way through, and yes I did find humanity in some of my fellow students in that class and vice versa but it wasn’t the Breakfast club, it was an educationless room where we were passed ahead, without knowing or learning anything unless like me you read a book and surprise surprise, the others got curious so you ended up teaching them some reading skills and had a book club. It was short lived because I broke down again. However, it was a start. If I could teach kids I loathed and thought were no better than animals, why couldn’t the teachers?
The teachers at this school, with a few minor but fantastic exceptions, don’t care and don’t try. Actually that’s the educational format for this state before you get culled out usually by education and color, or being form out of state between the local community college with it’s basic courses and the university for the “more advanced”. Yeah. They said it that way for a few years there. I think they stopped but wowza.
So there it stands… my entire memory collective of these events. In a town where the population divvies up between white people who are inbred with each other (literally) and a few outsiders who you just don’t talk to if you are local because they aren’t part of the Cult of Estancia, the town with a catholic or baptist (and that one methodist ) church on EVERY CORNER. They have one bar, and at least ten churches I can think off off of the top of my head… then the rest are hispanic folks, a lot of them are not legal, though every student was here legally born in either Albuquerque or Estancia itself. Even the doctor was racist, and would treat people’s ailments with some sort of outdated “medicine” that killed a lot of people.
In a town of 90% color vs 10% Whiteness, why is it that almost all of the white children are in a special class? I wonder now if this is why that awesome teacher with the pizza (and a lot of other extra time spent teaching me things like advanced beading and how to focus even when angry) chose to teach us about the Nuremburg trials. She took history and made us reenact it. We had to work together to write a script, and every time I was triggered she would let me go for a walk as long as I came back. I was allowed to do what I had to in order to be okay with the work, and actually made more progress with my PTSD in her class than I ever had in an institution up to date. I played the roll of Herman Goerring, and we had the honor of performing our class play, which was actually ripped fairly much from trial transcripts, infront of holocaust survivors, one of whom presented evidence and reprised this actual event. Each survivor brought a piece of atrocity with them, and it stuck with most of us, these lamps of human skin, chairs with bone, and bits of humanity were all that the Nazis valued of people who weren’t like them. Infact, when these survivors thanked us for our portrayal (I even faked hanging myself) I was scared. I didn’t understand the waves of emotion, and I still cannot. I do know that the men and women that sat and watched children with great seriousness learning, and for some of us seeing when we held the actual items, such as a Nazi flag, the horrors that the impact was great, not great as in good but massive. Huge.
I remember many things about my teacher, including when she left. She left the school system when I went to high school, or as I oh so fondly remember it.. the land of no one cares because we’re almost done with you horrible children (except my computer sciences teacher who was known as an evil witch because she actually cared and had expectations the horror..) She left because they would not change the system. She told each of us goodbye and said, “There are things in your town that aren’t right. When you go elsewhere, people aren’t treated this way based on how they look but what they know or could learn. Keep that in mind, you aren’t the only smart people here.” I took this as a get out while you still can, and I still think that was a part of it. She wanted us to keep our minds open.
My teacher in her lesson on Nuremburg taught about not just the Jews but she taught about all of the other peoples targeted, she herself was of german descent, and as I said was the Aryan dream in appearance. I wonder if her teaching this was based on seeing the potential for the same crimes to occur, and feeling guilt because her family name is tied closely to the Nazis. I wonder… but all I can think of is… if I am the most successful by the traditional money money money standards, and also by my own out of these students what went wrong? I had the least amount of potential to succeed being that I was actually preparing to kill them all rather like a cartoon villain. What lead each of the smart women in my class to become pregnant and then housewives without fulfillment. I won’t say every housewife is unfulfilled but when I ended up back in that town a few years ago, it was clear that they wanted out. I even had one ask me why I wasn’t married and how I had managed to survive without a man. The outsiders were now insiders, married to someone else there, I think the fact that everyone in that town who remains has relations to someone else is a bit horrifying and someday I may write a horror movie based on the phenomenon… yet even with everyone there being mostly blood related, it was those deemed more than the others, because of last names bearing whiteness, skin, hair, in fact the entire gifted class had only one person without blonde hair in it, and one was me.
So… why was it that this old idea of whiteness being superior shaped the futures of children? How fair is it? Yes, my otherness nearly cost me the gifted program, but that is more proof isn’t it? They wanted the children with the “super good” label to be the ones who matched what they see on TV as superior. There was never consideration that the twins or their brother could have been smart. THere was never consideration that anyone excluding myself with a mental illness could be smart, or could be super frigging bored because there were a total of four teachers in my entire experience there that taught (though a few of them I had more than once). Why was it all of our teachers were white too…
The hell Estancia. How can a town that has such a rich history, one with so little whiteness, be so sick? Most of your white people are CRIMINALS. Most of your hispanics, at least while I was there, ran businesses,worked to make the town a better place. Sure, the serial killer that nearly got me there was a man of color but, he was the exception to the criminal scum there not the rule. Then again your town embraces criminals so why am I bothering to scold you? I just wish for the future children, those being educated now, that you weren’t run by racist scumbags. So glad I am out of there.
I will never cross your border again, I will never look back again, unless triggered like so. That is all you are to me you cesspool of a town, you are the worst years of my life. You contain my lack of recovery, a lack of love, and hatred. THe few exceptions stand out with gleaming clarity because they are EXCEPTIONS, and even those were tainted by my being other. Every moment in that town was a torture. Even the moments when I learned the most,s omeone was in pain at all times. How is that healthy? No being white doesn’t make you smarter. Neither does my autism. Just because you were forced to follow laws you have to find a way to sully the idea of smarts? Good frigging grief.