Newport Harbor High School, in the city of Newport Beach in Orange County, is so segregated that during breakfast the Latino students sit on one side of the cafeteria and the white ones on the other. Contemptuously, the latter designated the Latino side as “Tijuana.” They represent 40% of the student’s body.
In the campus, where whites make up half of the student body, Hispanic students have seen messages like “beaner”, “wetback” and “Go back to Mexico,” but this year the xenophobic expressions intensified as Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign continued its attacks on immigrants.
Thus, the Republican candidate and his phrase “Make America Great Again” began to be seen on t-shirts and caps of certain students on campus.
“Behind the words there is that sense of racism that those young people have. Donald Trump gave them that power to speak openly with racism,” says Anthony Agama, a junior.
But the straw that broke the camel’s back was when the school principal asked Latino students, on Friday, to take off their t-shirts with the phrase “Dump Trump,” a day after a violent protest originated in Costa Mesa between Trump dissenters and sympathizers alike, four miles from the Newport Harbor High School.
Freedom of Expression
“We wanted to show that we also had an opinion because Trump represents all the hatred towards minorities, said Angelina Alvarez, one of the students who refused to take off the t-shirt.
She and other students claimed that Republican supporters did not receive the same treatment during the months that they displayed pro-Trump propaganda.
“It is a school where you do not feel protected”, said 10th-grade student Stephanie Ramirez who added that she had faced verbal offenses even before carrying the anti-Trump t-shirt.
“The principal and teachers do not do anything to create an atmosphere in which you feel that being Latino is OK, they make you feel as if being Latino is bad and therefore, you should be ashamed,” she said.
The school principal, Sean Boulton, said that he has not given privileges to the white students
“All students were asked, on Friday, to take off the political t-shirts due to Trump’s protest on Thursday that turned violent,” he said to La Opinion.
Although he denied that the campus is segregated, Boulton acknowledged that there are tensions among students.
Boulton said that one of the school main goals is to respect other races. “We celebrated our diversity, that it is our strength, there is no doubt of that,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has taken note from this incident, which it is considered a violation to the right of the Newport Harbor High School Latino students to express their opinion.
School Reverses Stance
The school said that after evaluating the case, they concluded that they could wear clothes with political messages, “while security and education are not compromised.”
But Gabriela Hernandez, Angelina’s mother, said the xenophobic attacks are also expressed in social networks and shared alleged comments that some white students have made. “It is time to build a wall,” says the least offensive phrase.
Hernandez, whose parents are Mexicans, attributes the aggressions to the Republican club at the school. “They have posted horrible things against Latinos, Arabs and African Americans,” she said.
School officials said they were not aware that Hispanic students are the target of many attacks and stressed that they will punish those responsible.
“If students are harassing or intimidating others on this campus we will take care of that,” Boulton promised.
A group on campus was created out of the fight to reject Trump’s speech.
Although anti Trump t-shirts can be worn at Newport Harbor, the hostile environment continues, said Agama.
“Most of the white students are racist and that scares me”, he said.