Prejudice and Paso
Does racism rear its ugly head in the quiet town of Paso Robles?
According to statistics and many different stories of things that are going on at Paso High’s own campus, it very well could be a problem — but a growing one?
Objective racism has always been a taboo topic for all parties involved; the propagators or the defenders, it is hardly a bipartisan issues in a dysfunctional era where shock statements rule the daily news. At Paso Robles High School it is often surprising to newcomers and tourists just how well our community thrives on the differences of all living here, but that does not change the suppressed feelings that still bubble beneath the surface, far separated from the veneer of tolerance supported by community leaders
Out of 19 people surveyed in the class Intro To Multimedia Journalism, approximately 63.2% believe racial discrimination isn’t frequently occuring on campus. Despite this trend, 41.2% agreed that it is prevalent on campus, whereas another 41.2% believed it quite simply isn’t commonplace. 10.6% agreed that they had heard about discriminatory or racially-motivated situations on campus or witnessed it firsthand. The key issue is that the shared sentiment of racism being uncommon on campus doesn’t explain the 63.2% saying they haven’t witnessed prejudice on campus, yet they also believe it to be happening on a frequent enough basis to be a cause for concern. While this could point to issues in the survey responses or perhaps even the survey itself, this inaccuracy could indicate people are too nervous to want to explain what is going on.
When speaking to my friend Leo Perez, he told me of a recent encounter that he’d had on campus where he was harassed. Walking down the all too familiar sidewalk by the street at the back of the school, he had fruit thrown at him by a couple of white boys. Anybody in their right mind would be offended, but how Leo spoke of it didn’t seem to convey any idea of feeling assailed or wronged by it. Despite being a target Leo walked over and asked if there was a problem, striking up a quick conversation with the boys who had been just moments before pelting him with fruit and calling him a derogatory term. With more maturity than can be expected in that kind of situation the situation was resolved and he and the boys parted ways peacefully. That is the ideal way to handle a situation for either side in that argument, there is no way it was right for those boys to do what they did but violence isn’t the answer to prejudice or even the answer to conflicting culture.
With the current conflicts on campus there have been escalating racial tensions caused by policy changes nationwide and the protests that have been happening, whether it be for the outright removal of guns or the prohibition of free speech. In just one recent circumstance marked by great upheaval at the school, a fight broke out between Liberals and Conservatives at lunch on March 15, 2018. This was after the Conservative Club had been picketing outside of the public and controlled 17-minute walkout over gun violence. What was intended to be a time of remembrance for the 17 kids killed during the massacre at Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. These signs were typically pro-Trump or pro-gun, they included statements like “Make America Great Again” and “Black Rifles Matter”.
Now, neither of those statements are objectively racist — but they could definitely be construed as having that kind of impact on minority groups. Hispanics have long been a perceived target of Pres. Donald J. Trump since he first began campaigning for office, immigration policies have been the center focus of his entire campaign, including his promise to erect a wall on the border to keep people immigrating illegally from Mexico out. These policies have culminated in a widespread resentment of Latinos by Conservatives and vice versa. It is what can be identified as the reason behind so much instability at the Paso Robles High campus. The reasoning for this kind of political divide can be easily separated into both national and local headlines.
- Donald Trump is advocating for the Dreamers in his own words with “heart and compassion”; but he is unwilling to do anything without also tying in funding for his campaign promise: the border wall. Many conservatives do not approve of their tax dollars being spent to accommodate people who are foreign, so little effort is put into making a new plan for the Dreamers, they are just viewed as people caught in the crossfire.
- There are nine Dreamers in Paso Robles and attending PRHS, there are Honor Roll students and students who have represented the school in activities like Mock Trial, SkillsUSA and athletics in an effort to participate in the community at large. This is why it is so impactful for many PRHS students that there is a possibility of their friends being punished for the actions of their parents.
- It has been declared that despite Paso Robles clear Conservative preference in political ideology, the town will be conforming to California’s “sanctuary state” law SB 54 after the city council unanimously agreed it would impact public safety negatively in town.
- Paso Robles town government was encouraged by over a dozen local residents to reject SB 54 in April 2018. Mayor Steve Martin stated that the city council would be waiting until next meeting to make an official decision once an attendee accused them of violating the Brown Act.
- SB 54 prevents local law enforcement agencies in the State of California from participating in efforts of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This means they do not help enforce federal law and opt out of helping deport, detain suspects or even question their immigrant status. Ty Lewis, next in line for Paso Robles Police Chief, stated, “We’re not immigration officers. We’re not trained in immigration enforcement.”
- Racism prominently targets areas of low socioeconomic status and a number of equity analyses have proven that an inordinate amount of hazardous waste treatment, storage or disposal facilities are in low-income areas.
- According to Race and Wrongful Convictions In the United States published March 7, 2017; African Americans despite only consisting of 13% of the nation’s population account for the majority of wrongfully convicted defendants in the United States.
- African Americans are 47% of the 1,900 exonerations listed in the National Registration of Exonerations since October 2016.