Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Upper Drive-by?

At a recent football game between my previous high school, Upper Darby High School, and another high school in the same league, Lower Merion High School, "spirited" chants turned in hate speech, the media portrays the incident as primarily anti-semetic; however, there are a lot more complicated issues going on here.

From what I have heard/read here is what happened:

The game started out with friendly chants the LM team shouting "Merry Christmas" at UD and UD responding with "Happy Chanuka". Things escalated when Lower Merion students began rhythmically chanting "SAT scores". A few Upper Darby students responded to this with "warm up the ovens". Additionally, a few parents overheard some students saying something along the lines of "we'll send you letters in Auschwitz". Lower Merion students have also been reported as having signs that said "Upper Darby", and chanting something to the extent of "you are poor" at students from Upper Darby.

My response to the situation is split.

I have been thinking a lot about growing up in Upper Darby lately, they just tore down the only synagogue in UD. It had been filled by a population that was old and dying 15 years ago when I was young, I am sure there are few left in Upper Darby who even knew of the buildings existence or mourn it's loss. Growing up as a jew in Upper Darby I understand the anti-semitism that permeates the school district and the students. From the truant officer who came after my mother for pulling me out of school for so many jewish holidays in 3rd grade to the ex-boyfriend who threw pennies at me. Not to mention countless more taunts and ways that I was made to feel my existence as a jew in a negative way over and over again. With this in mind I am glad to see the school district forced to confront it's anti-semitism.

On the other hand the media reporting of this incident almost exclusively fails to confront the classism and racism of the chants being spewed by lower merion students. The constant taunting of Upper Darby as a poor, dirty and dangerous place is also something I grew up with and continue to hear echoed to this day. The students in my jewish middle school thought that by opting to attend Upper Darby High School instead of applying for scholarships to a private jewish high school I was signing away my future and likely to get stabbed before my high school graduation. Even this past semester someone at Hampshire repeatedly referred to UD as Upper Drive-by and said that we were too dirty to get swine flu.

While I do not wish to excuse the chants of UD students, I find it despicable that while 4 UD students were expelled and 12 suspended and yet no action was taken against the students from LM. This is not a one sided battle of anti-semetic students from Upper Darby. But rather a larger problem between understanding, media coverage, anti-semitism but also jewish privilege, class privilege and many other factors that have been ignored in the coverage and response to this incident. Why did UDHS need to issue an apology while Lower Merion walks away to resume business as usual?

1 comment:

mscearce said...

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