A Reflection Paper on Walkout written by Sharo Dickerson
The year 1968 was momentous for political activism (Olmos, 2006). Many events occurred during this time, such as the Vietnam War, the student protests and demonstrations that rallied against the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr (Olmos, 2006). Likewise, the 1960’s was a poignant year in the international realm because of different significant political movements, which included, but not limited to, (a) Japan’s Anpo movement, (b) Germany’s youth and student radicalism in opposition to the Nazi regime and the German Emergency Acts, (c) Canada’s student strikes that advocated for public education, (d) Czechoslovakia’s Prague Spring, and (e) France’s student activism that shaped public debate (Olmos, 2006).
Edward Olmos (2006), who is the director of Walkout, described considerable evidences of inequity and inequality of education among non-White students, particularly with the Hispanic learners. The film took place in East Los Angeles, California, where different high schools, such as the Lincoln High School, were challenged to advocate and implement the essential changes concerning the, (a) discrimination towards Hispanic students, (b) degrading and inhuman treatment towards Hispanic learners, (c) unavailability of appropriate academic services towards non-English learners, (d) inexistence of appropriate and quality school materials and resources, (e) impermissible use of a language other than English, (f) absence of appropriate bilingual program, to name a few (Olmos, 2006). These struggles demonstrated the relentless desire of Chicanos, in particular, to achieve specific goals based on perseverance, justice, hard work, and dedication (Olmos, 2006). The Chicano students desired to be respected as individuals of equal worth as their White American peers, including the recognition of their ideas, talents, and skills (Olmos, 2006).
In the poem, “I am Joaquin”, Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzalez (1967) provided different thought-provoking situations that demonstrated the power within the Chicano race and the pride that one should have with one’s ancestral legacy. According to Nicolás Kanellos (2002), the poem clearly demonstrated the “exploitation of the mestizos from colonial era to the present, and shaped a nationalist ideology for activism (p.10).” These exploitations affected the Chicano’s appreciation and respect for themselves, including the ability to think critically about their rights as human beings (Kanellos, 2002, p.10). The poem served as an avenue for Chicanos to express one’s disparities and voice against the injustices and discrimination that they experienced, particularly during the 1960s (Kanellos, 2002, p.10). The poem also became a meaningful instrument in motivating and encouraging Chicanos to remember the proud heritage of their ancestors, particularly with the contribution of one’s culture, language, and race to the shaping of American history (Kanellos, 2002, p.10).
Walkout portrayed many struggles and challenges that young Chicanos experienced during that time (Olmos, 2006). The different characters of the film demonstrated the innermost passions that symbolized strong beliefs in pursuing equality, equity, and justice, especially in the American public school system (Olmos, 2006). Though the end of the film demonstrated a continuous fight for one’s cause, many of the young Chicanos realized that they have accomplished changed within themselves, notwithstanding the American public school system failing to permanently commit to the required change (Olmos, 2006).
Several years have passed since the year of momentous political rallies and strife. Yet, more political activists emerged to provide those individuals a right to be heard, especially for those who belong in poverty. The fight for appropriate recognition towards Chicano’s desire for equality, equity, and justice continue to be demonstrated in current issues. These include issues concerning the (a) questionable and controversial changes in the historical contributions of Hispanics, Blacks and other minority groups (i.e. Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Jr.) in the Social Studies context; (b) treatment towards documented and non-documented immigrants who belong in minority groups (i.e. border issues, roadside citizenship status checks); (c) labeling of economically disadvantaged Hispanics and other minority groups based on the path towards college life, vocational career, or dropping out; (d) lack of quality services provided to English Language Learners in the American public school system; (e) inappropriate distribution of funding on the use of school materials and resources, similar to the monies spent in more affluent American public school districts (i.e. Austin ISD); and the like. With the idea that the political movements, that were initiated by the older Chicano generation, would have produced the change that have been long desired. However, there remain obvious traces of discrimination and inequality among Hispanics and other minority groups. One cannot avoid but recognize the greater gap and segregation among races, regardless of current modernity and historical transformation.
Many interesting situations have occurred that led to deeper realizations on the continuous unequal treatment towards Hispanic students. When the virtual learning grant was introduced to Ysleta ISD three years ago, it was quite noticeable as to which schools were immediately prepared in recommending students to be enrolled in an alternative form of learning. These Ysleta ISD schools were mostly the ones that have more affluent students, even though the schools are located in a border city. Within these schools walls, many Hispanic students are segregated from each other, regardless of sharing common factors. Economic status is a significant contributor that determines the future of Hispanic students in El Paso, Texas, which includes opportunities to obtain better and brighter futures. In doing so, the depictions presented in Walkout seem to continuously be evident in today’s American public school system. No matter the clothes students wear, the cars being used, the technology that is available in schools, and the professional development that are offered to teachers. The only discrepancy is that the year is 2011.
Gonzales, R. (1967). I Am Joaquin. Retrieved from http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/latinos/joaquin.htm
Kanellos, N. (2002). An Overview of Latino Poetry: The Iceberg below the Surface. American Book Review, 24(1), 5-10. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Olmos, E. (2006). Walkout [DVD]. Available from http://www.democracynow.org/2006/3/29/walkout_the_true_story_of_the
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