Letters to the Editor: Confronting racism in school with an ‘is that all you got’ attitude

A view of the entrance to Laguna Hills High School
The entrance to Laguna Hills High School, where a student was recorded yelling racial slurs at a Black basketball player.
(Gustavo Arellano / Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: As a product of K-12 education in Orange County who is Black and female, I must say that I had an overall good experience in school in the 1980s and ‘90s — and not because the kind of discrimination discussed by columnist Gustavo Arellano didn’t exist.

I was instilled with a sense of unshakable resolve and pride by a father who was bused to school in the 1950s and ‘60s in Birmingham, Ala., in the throes of the civil rights movement, and a mother who was a product of the Great Migration. The pride of the greater Black community poured into me continuously.

Certainly, I had instances where I felt treated differently by school staff and was subjected to name-calling by my peers. At times, standing out didn’t feel so great. Early on I learned to advocate for myself, and when that wasn’t enough I enlisted my mother who would immediately come down to the school.


Eventually, I met any negative treatment with an “is that all you got” attitude and a sense of pride that still serves me today and informs how I raise my son.

Carla Roberts, Anaheim


To the editor: As a teacher at Fremont Junior High in Anaheim from 1967-79, I was very dismayed by Arellano’s piece about racist taunting and bullying at Orange County schools. This is sad but not really surprising given what I read daily.

These incidents did happen, but our Fremont staff, particularly in the ‘70s, worked hard to understand the backgrounds of our students. We had workshops, seminars, conferences and other meetings to learn about our multicultural student body.

I am not claiming that this training struck a chord with the entire staff, but when Fremont closed, most of our staff transferred to other Anaheim schools and did our best to put into practice what we had learned.

Obviously, there is still a lot of work to be done everywhere and not just in Orange County. I guess that is why we keep trying and don’t give up hope.

Cora Johnson, Minden, Nev.


To the editor: Arellano’s column highlights an underappreciated feature of racism — the extent to which students of color themselves have been willing participants in incidents where they are the targets of racist behavior by whites, and just as disturbing, incidents where one racial or ethnic group targets another.

Far from such actions being “jokes” or meaningless youthful pranks, what they reveal is the extent to which white superiority perspectives get internalized by students of color themselves. So long as some young people of color grow up with feelings of inferiority to whites, subconscious though it may be, the ugly edifice of racism will exist.

To eliminate this scourge, both the actions of the racists and the psychic effects on their targets must be addressed.

Agustin Medina, South Pasadena