Saturday, May 24, 2008

Discriminatory Mall Practices

Last week, I took a "field trip " with my students to the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida . The objective was community based instruction in the domain of Recreation/Leisure. In other words something to do when you have nothing to do- that is safe, cheap and socially acceptable.
We were a group of 7 people--- 5 students, age17-19 and 2 adults teachers. Upon our approach to the mall entrance after the school bus dropped us off, a security guard walks up to us with a pad and pen. She wants to know who we are, where we are from, what we are doing here, how long will we be? I asked her why she needed that information. The response was that it was to keep us safe?!?! Safe? From what? Should we get back on the bus? Did they expect an unsafe situation? WHAT??????? Im asking her stupid questions, but what I really wanted to ask was....
  • Would you have approach the group of senior citizens from Century Village with your questions as they piled out of their 21 passenger van?

  • If a bus from a Christian private school pulled up, would you have asked them the questions?

  • If my kids came off the bus in wheelchairs would you have asked those questions? (My students are severely disabled, but not physically)

  • If my kids were WHITE would you have asked those question?

  • Are you asking me these questions because my students AND the adults with them are predominantly BLACK and HISPANIC ?

Okay-I know what your thinking: 9/11, homeland security, holidays murders at a mall in Boca (and you know how I feel about THAT quaint little town), whole families arrested over pants wearing at Wellington Mall, but this is different.....This left a sick , angry, dirty feeling in my gut the entire time I was in that mall. The worst part was that when that security guard started asking questions, my students body language spoke volumes. They immediately looked like they shouldn't be there-like they didn't belong. Like their place was the 45th street Flea market, or the Flea market at Sample road in Broward county--with others of their socio- economic background or uh hum- ethnicity. Did I mention that they were all dressed in appropriate work attire as is my condition whenever we are out in the community? The entire school years work of learning confidence and bolstering self esteem to become productive and fully participating members of mainstream society-- not undone but definitely eroded at a Mall entrance. Shame on you Gardens Mall Security.
*I have sent an email to the General Manager of the mall, asking him to email me so I may discuss this incident and the impact it has made. In my email, I made it clear to him that this was not over and that I welcomed the opportunity to speak with him before taking the issue further.
Action5 anyone?

I teach Life Skills to SED high school students, many of which are or have been in foster care (due to abuse or neglect) and will be transitioning to independent living situations in which they will be caring for themselves. Much of their lives they have been marginalized by various people and agencies. Re-training them to think for themselves and to think GOOD things about themselves and their future is a difficult task, but not an impossible one.

1 comment:

Lynn said...

I am SO impressed that you teach SED students. People like you amaze me. There is not enough money in the world to compensate you for what you do. Those kids need an advocate, and they are lucky to have you!