Intolerance, it’s what’s for breakfast.

Remember back in June, when I had racist insults hurled my way by a teacher at a school here, in Granada?

I returned the following week to hand over a (non-angry, just matter-of-fact) complaint letter to the school’s directors, shortly before the school closed for the summer.

The school has since re-opened, and I have yet to hear a response. Today, D-Man and I went to the school to turn in a reclamación – an official letter of complaint sent to the administrators – only to be met with this teacher’s BFF, the head secretary.

Now, I’m not some self-righteous control freak. I really do try to pick and choose my battles. When ignorant folk have said things like, “Machu Picchu, are you enjoying Europe?” and, “You’re pretty for an indigenous person,” or, “Isn’t the U.S. filled to the brim with sudakas?” (‘sudaka’ being a degrading word for Latin Americans – the equivalent of ‘nigger’), I’ve simply ignored the comments and continued on with my life, because what else am I supposed to do?

But when a person who is an educator throws a grand slew of offenses at me, in front of her students, well, that’s a whole different matter in my book.

I’ve chosen this as my battle. I don’t particularly feel like swallowing this teacher’s abuse and just letting it go. Maybe it’s because I’m a teacher too. I can’t walk away knowing (for a fact) that this woman is teaching her students the supposed difference between an immigrant and a ‘guiri’ (think ‘gringo’, or white person). In her opinion, immigrants are the darkies without money that are sucking out the country’s resources, and ‘guiris’ are the white people with money that should be welcomed in the country with open arms because they have money, and Spain is in an economic crisis, so the country must take the utmost advantage of them.

I’ll admit, the woman isn’t completely stupid. I’ve done my homework. She’s set up seminars for Francesco Tonucci, a leading psychopedagogist from Italy, and many of her colleagues and students love her and have great things to say about her. Those who do have complaints against her (there are also several) are scared shitless or, like me, are manipulated and turned away under a thousand pretenses. The woman is protected by her community, and people know it.

Today I found myself again at the same crossroads, but with her secretary. Granted, she was very polite, but in an infuriating passive-aggressive way. When D-Man and I walked into the main office to fill out the complaint form, she sweetly asked whom it was for. D-Man, more or less knowing how it works, responded with, “Allow us to fill it out and then you can read it.”

Secretary: “I can’t help you if you don’t tell me who it’s for. There’s a certain book for each professor here…”

Me: “Maria del Mar Romero Morón.”

Secretary: “Ah.”

The secretary hands over the sheet of paper to me, and follows me over to the desk where I quietly sit down and begin to fill it out. I have only written a single word, when she begins to speak.

Secretary: “Are you a student of hers? Otherwise, this complaint won’t be of any use.”

Me: “No. My sister-in-law was a student of hers, but the offense was committed against me.”

Secretary:  [Reading my copy of the original complaint letter I’ve brought along].  “I read this last year. You sent it online, didn’t you? I’ve read it on the internet.”

Me:  [Very surprised, and confused].  “I never sent it online. I personally turned it in only four months ago, in a sealed enveloped and addressed to the academy’s directors.”  [At this point, I’ve realized that my letter was probably scanned, and has been circulating via email amongst the school staff. Weird.]

Secretary: “Anyway…. The complaint is only of use if you’re to complain about her teaching, and since you’ve never been an actual student of hers, this matter has nothing to do with the academy.”

Me: “I was directly insulted with racist remarks, in front of students, while at this academy, so I think it has everything to do with the academy. It doesn’t matter to you that you’re employing this sort of teacher? A teacher that imposes her politically incorrect opinions on her students – such as the nonexistent difference between an immigrant and guiri?”

Secretary: “I don’t know where your opinion lies, but I completely agree with what Maria del Mar Romero Morón teaches here.”

D-Man:  [Who had been trying to get me to shut up the entire time, turns red].  “Michelle, this academy obviously stands behind such teachers and such teachings, so we need to go now. Let’s go. Now.”

Me: [Not willing to leave it like this, I continue speaking with the secretary]. “So tell me, what am I, then? What happens when someone like me who, in your vocabulary, looks like an immigrant but is really just some guiri…tell me, under which category does such a person fall?”

Secretary: “Why don’t you just leave this letter here with me, and I’ll make sure to let Maria del Mar know you were here today.”

Me: “Why? So you can rip it up as soon as I leave, and laugh about it over coffee?”

Secretary:  [Choosing to ignore me, faces D-Man and asks:]  “And where are you from? Why have you accompanied her?”

D-Man:  [At this point, he’s already walked towards the exit, in hopes that I’d follow].  “I’m Spanish, born and bred, she’s my wife, and I’m here to support her because what happened to her at this academy isn’t right, and you know it.”

Secretary:  “Hombre, I’m sure it hurts you because, surely, you love her, but there’s really nothing you can do since she wasn’t a student here. You can take it up with the courts if you wish. Perhaps you know of a good lawyer? Surely you can find one.”  [Creepy, calm-as-the-devil smile].

At this point, all I do really, is roll my eyes and smile weakly at D-Man. Not a true smile at all, but a does-this-sociopath-of-a-woman-really-think-we’re-that-stupid sort of smile. An I’m-so-goddamn-tired-of-all-this sort of smile.

D-Man and I leave the school – frustrated, deflated, dejected –  knowing perfectly well that there are some things we just cannot change. For now.

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17 thoughts on “Intolerance, it’s what’s for breakfast.

  1. oh god , mIchelle. my blood pressure is raised just reading this.
    Picket, befriend the local journalists and write a letter to the editor. or see if they would let you do an opinion piece on this subject (the role of teachers and other role models in teaching tolerance…..seriously). Let Moron – and her clan shielding her – know you and your spanish husband won’t go away. I bet you could find a sympathizing journalist who might love a little drama.
    I’ve been there before and it’s not going to help that you are young and darling. They know you can’t do anything legally but by bringing attn through the media (or local community blogs, community papers that accept opinion pieces- are they there?), you can still try to get the word out, altho I imagine you couldnt use names. At the end, pity them.

  2. I agree with bringingtravelhome- is there a place you can get the director’s email? If so, send a copy of the complaint directly to that person- that way you know it gets to the right person.

    Or send a certified letter to that person.

    Copy it to a lawyer…

  3. I agree with madelinelaughs! In my country we say ‘the stick has two ends’! You are doing the right thing, nobody has right to treat people the way this teacher did!

  4. I was so sad to read this and the other related post. I do hope you get “justice” as behaviour like this should not be allowed to continue. I too have had some mild insults hurled at me as an “English Guiri” – people thinking I am here to exploit the system and making generalisations about the behaviour of English people. What you have gone through is way worse, Wish I could help in some way.

  5. Geez, MY blood is boiling for this teacher and the secretary. You should do a SCATHING post on them and the school, calling them racists and fascists and that their mother’s whores from (wherever it’s offensive for them to come from) and have us ALL comment on it supporting you, using exaggerated insults, and then you mail them the link, saying that they’ve been immortalised on cybersapce… assholes *sigh*

  6. Desgraciadamente fue así. Siempre he detectado la mala educación y la falta de respeto, pero ahora estamos hablando de un trato discriminatorio, vejatorio y racista procedente de personas adultas y con “educación”. Me da vergüenza e incluso asco de tener que ver este tipo de comportamiento hacia mi mujer; es indignación, impotencia. Así que optaremos por la vía burocrática, para ver si las leyes sirven para algo y de paso intentar concienciar a alguien.

    A veces me cuesta creer que esté rodeado de gente de este tipo. Hay algunas personas que realmente piensan así, es decir, desprecian a los inmigrantes. Pero luego están las otras, las ovejas, las que no lo sienten así, simplemente ven mucha tele-basura, gente que habla desde la ignorancia, o puede que eso sea lo que escucha en su casa y por eso no pueden parar de soltar porquería por la boca.

    De cualquier manera lo veo como un gran “Analfabetismo Social”, y no creo que vaya a mejorar sino a empeorar, a no ser que la gente se ponga las pilas y reclame sus derechos en vez de dejarlo pasar porque sea mucho trabajo o porque crean que no merezca la pena. Quiero decir que hay que actuar para concienciar, ya sea en este tema o en otro.

    • David, también tenemos que tener presente el hecho que tengamos una educación, no quiere decir que dejemos de ser racistas. Hay personas que no han atendido la universidad, pero al mismo tiempo son cultas y sabias. También tenemos que recordar que hay personas, que se dejan llevar por el estatus social, y muchas de estas personas lo han obtenido a costa de inocentes de manera ilegal y no lo reconocen. Por otro lado, existe la historia, una historia que no se le da a conocer en su totalidad a sus habitantes. Lo triste de todo esto es que estamos viviendo en el siglo XXI y aún estamos transmitiendo esta “porquería” a nuestros niños.
      Por último solo quiero objetar que hoy en día hay más medios de comunicación para hacer llegar nuestro mensaje y concienciar al público al respecto.

      • Exacto Flor, tienes toda la razón. A lo que voy es al RESPETO; da igual la cultura o la educación que recibas, hay una manera, no, mejor dicho, hay muchas maneras de tratar bien a una persona. Como bien dices estamos en pleno S.XXI, donde hay posibilidad de elegir la moralidad correcta, pero hay personas… bueno, estoy leyendo “Las aventuras de Huckleberry Finn” de Mark Twain, y creo que hay gente de esta época que encajaría muy bien en ese libro.

        En fin, confío en que la mentalidad está cambiando favorablemente, pero porqué lo hace tan despacio?.

  7. So Mich, we decided that we LOVE D-man. Any man who can support and stand up like that for his woman, and then comment about it here, gets 5 gold stars in our books. He surely is a keeper :D Now, we have to go and work on getting our own gallant Spanish men that will support us and stand up for us when it counts, and comment on our blogs too :D

  8. Thank you for your support, everyone. I’ve spoken with one of my students (who’s actual profession is legally battling xenophobia and the like) and he has given me a clear step-by-step process of what I need to do in regards to the issue at hand. As Emily mentioned above, It does need to start with sending a certified letter to the director at the academy, so that they cannot deny I’ve sent it. As Monique mentioned, the press would be a terrific outlet, but should be considered the last step in this 4-step process, as I won’t be able to mention any names due to legalities, unless I can prove that I’ve done all I can in trying to solve the issue. Sadly, however, things aren’t as efficient here, but I am willing to accept the loss as long as I know I’ve tried. I just can’t “let it go” (as most are wont to do here, for fear of confrontation and because writing such bureaucratic complaint letters “just takes too much time and effort”) because such ways of thinking are what I feel continue to halt any positive progress certain countries would be able to make.

  9. You know… if Rosa Parks did not refuse to go to the back of the bus, legislations from civil rights movements would not have had the same push. Sometimes, it’s a matter of just getting angry and standing up for yourself and becoming the ‘human being’… every story that changes something had someone at the heart of it who tapped into their own humanity.

    Stay strong, ignorance is the prison of all those who experience fear. Stay honest, stay kind, let that guide you, I think you have a significant potential to change something in the academy’s culture, if this flourishes. Best of luck, keep us posted.

    _/|_
    D. Ogyen

    • Thank you for your comment, I really appreciate it. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. The emotional and mental ordeal of it is still something I am dealing with on different scales, especially considering the inefficient bureaucracy and seemingly ingrained racism that exists here in Spain. I have left out the fact that there are important historical factors involved between Spain and the fact that they colonized Latin America, etc., that also seems to fuel this sort of behavior in many people – especially the older generations (the younger ones just seem to repeat what their parents say at home).

  10. I tried to keep my comments to myself on this one…. mostly because of the bottled up anger I had for this entire situation, you know me, and the things I would say…. loosing my edit button would be necessary in this particular situation. BUT… not without being “somewhat fair” (although that lady surely got under my skin and I DON’T EVEN KNOW HER!!) So…. I looked her up! Did a little reading, watched some videos and even saw some of her writing material… and in my small amount of research I did, here is what I have to say:

    As an educator, SHE should know better! As a NON-Spaniard, SHE should know better! (She was born and raised in Germany! like YOU, she is an immigrant!!!!) And most importantly, as a human being, SHE should know better!

    IF these are the minds that are teaching our tender learning minds, we are in trouble world! The world has risen and continues to rise from the horror that racism has brought… why would anyone take steps backwards in this life struggle? The worlds needs to be a kinder, nicer place to be… and people like her only remind us why we sometimes have to jerks to get what we need in life!

    • Sandra, I know, I’ve sometimes wonder if the fact that she was raised in Germany scarred her, and she is now taking out her anger on every single “immigrante de mierda” over here. I only say this because she was born to SPANISH parents in Germany. It was during the Civil War here in Spain, and several Spaniards fled to Germany and France to find work and feed their starving families, and many of their children were born and raised there until they could return to Spain.

      Such Spanish immigrants worked as factory workers and farmers in France and Germany, and weren’t particularly esteemed. Most returned to Spain as soon as they could, though a few families did stay. Maria del Mar Romero Morón’s family returned to Spain when she was very young, and she considers herself very Spanish, as she spent the rest of her childhood and schooling here.

      See, but this is exactly what I am saying. I FEEL (obviously I don’t know, because I never had the chance to see what kind of a person she really is – though a hurling of racial insults toward someone you don’t even know should probably be enough to give you an idea of the kind of person she is…) that she is using the fact that she is considered “educated” here to consistently impose her (politically-incorrect) opinions on her students and anyone else who takes her seriously.

      Again, it’s not hard to believe that she has a fairly wide audience. As I mentioned before, racism and the historical roots of Spain colonizing Latin America are deeply ingrained in the people of this country, it seems, and on top of that the Civil War under Franco was a huge setback in terms of education, travel, and allowing individuals to be more open-minded here. I still believe things will get better, but it’s definitely going to take some time.

  11. oh man. this sucks… as an Asian, I’ve faced my fair share of derision in Europe as well, but I usually just shake it off since I’m just visiting. Great that you’re taking the high road though. I’d’ve done something supremely juvenile. Sign up at some 500 websites using her work email, deliver cheap but naughty magazines to her work address in her name etc etc.

    Hm. I think I have latent harassment tendencies…..

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