“I ain’t no Yankee!” – Dealing With Irrational Hatred

Yup, looks like what I did too. This was a line waiting for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Image attributed to Zack Sheppard from San Fransisco, CA via Wikimedia Commons.

In reading Kristen Lamb’s book We Are Not Alone, I’ve learned (so far) that I must define my blog a bit better. Well, I already knew this, but her book has been showing me how. However, it’s difficult to pin point exactly what kind of writer I am because even my book ideas are wildly different. Up to now, I’ve got romance, historical/fantasy, historical/adventure, dystopia, historical/sci-fi, and mystery. Yeah. So I can’t just say, “Shea McIntosh Ford – Regency Romance Novelist.”

But a common theme in all my ideas is learning to be open-minded. Hence this post’s title.

*sigh* I may be from the South, but I would never say “I ain’t no Yankee” in such a manner unless you replaced the word “Yankee” with “hater.” (I’d probably fix the grammar too. 😉 ) Since we’re in the season of ending school, I thought I might post one of my experiences from teaching.

A bit of background: I taught High School English for one semester. When I decided to resign, I thought it was due to burn out. I was frustrated because I loved the job and wanted very much to make a difference. I had no idea at the time what gluten was doing to my body. Once our youngest starts kindergarten, I may give it another try.

Back to the topic.

While reading through the textbook, trying to decide on the next piece of literature to teach, I read two essays that I loved, especially the first which was a light-hearted and witty satire on the difference between Canadians and Americans. (I wish I could remember the name and author, but Google has failed me on this one.) I chuckled through the whole reading and thought, “We could have a lot of fun with this!”

Then my 4th period class gave this idealistic teacher the proverbial kick in the pants.

Being from Canada, the author called Americans, “Yankees.” As a rookie teacher, I was so caught up with lessons plans, and trying to grade for accuracy, that I forgot how many Confederate flag mementos these kids were wearing. They took such offence to being called a Yankee, that all the humor in the essay completely missed them.

How sad!

They were so caught up in their own inherited hate, they couldn’t see something for what it was. The companion essay was worse. It was about growing up in Texas on the border of Mexico and the beauty of blending Mexican and American cultures in the author’s life. During discussion, a student made the statement, “We need to send ALL Mexicans back to Mexico.”

I will never forget the look of horror on his classmate’s face. She was Mexican-American.

Had I been a seasoned teacher, I may have been able to handle such things with more finesse. Perhaps I could have asked to which country that kid’s family should return, as it was obvious that he was not Native American. As it was, being caught off guard, I pushed through the lessons hoping that I’d opened the minds of at least a few in my classes.

A few months later, after my resignation, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. I cried while reading it. Not so much because the plot moved me to tears. That indeed was part of it. But through the whole reading, I kept thinking, “What I wouldn’t give to be back in that classroom, armed with this book.”

To me, it read like an account of the Holocaust. Voldemort was Hitler and the Death Eaters were his Nazi soldiers. There was no mercy shown to anyone who did not have an approved heritage. Age, skill, intelligence did not matter. How sad to be filled with such hate!

The beauty of Harry Potter? Rowling illustrates the horror and evil of bigotry without “offending” anyone because it happens in the fictitious world she has created. This, in a nutshell, is why I love the Harry Potter series.

If I do get back into teaching, I’ll certainly be assigning certain essay topics from Rowling’s series for extra credit points.

Have you ever suffered from hatred and bigotry? How did you handle it? How would you have handled my racist students?

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9 Comments

Filed under Books I Love, Writing

9 responses to ““I ain’t no Yankee!” – Dealing With Irrational Hatred

  1. Awesome post! I don’t know how I would have handled, but most likely I would have handled it just like you, kind of deer-in-the-headlight, being shocked, it would have taken me so off guard, but I would have hoped that I would be quick on my feet and ask the same question or at least something to get them thinking…but I don’t do well being put on the spot. ha! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Jennette! 😀 Deer-in-the-headlight describes my response perfectly. In fact, I had quite a few of those kind of responses in those months… Hahaha! Maybe next time, I can be more suave about it.

  2. Great post Shea! 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today!

  3. Oh wow. This post dredges up lots of memories. Yes, as an Japanese American, I got my share of hate comments while I was growing up. Of course, I was born in the 50s, and WWII wasn’t that far back in people’s memories. And when I started teaching in a community with very, very few minorities, I got stares and a few looks of distrust. But I think that’s fading with younger generations. At least toward my particular race. However, as a teacher, I remember teaching junior high social studies and having a few issues like those you described. I agree, experience – life experiences as well as teaching experience – will help you cope with them, and I’m sure that if you decide to go back to teaching, you’ll be better prepared.

    • Thanks Patricia! 😀 I’m so sorry you had to go through that. But it’s also incredibly brave of you to take on a leadership role of teaching despite the racism 😀 I hope we can all aspire to have the same courage!

  4. As a girl of a variety of ethnicities who could pass for a “white girl” in the South, I heard a lot of nastiness and intolerance in school, things they wouldn’t dare say or admit to if they realized that I was of the race(s) they were insulting. (And I made a habit of calling them out on it).

    And I’d just like to say, I just discovered your blog today and I love your voice!! Don’t get caught up in what the “experts” say your blog must do/be. I’ve had good success with mine (a solid, loyal, following) as a writer who isn’t easily categorized.

    People return for you – for your voice, for your stories – not because you fit into a specific formula.

    • Thanks Amber! Kudos to you for speaking up against the haters! That takes a lot of courage. More than I had at the time I was teaching. It has bothered me ever after and now I feel like my writing is a cathartic way to make up for my cowardice. 🙂

      Thank you for encouragement! It’s hard when everyone seems to want to fit themselves into a label, when people like you and I are “labeless.” 😀

  5. Pingback: Losing the Beauty | Shea McIntosh Ford - Author of Open-Minded Fiction

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