Chicago High School Students Refuse to Tolerate Racist Retaliation Against Student Who Sat During National Anthem to Stand Up for Immigrants



From the Revolution Club, Chicago:

“When I heard the teacher said to her, ‘go back to your country,’ it hurt my heart,” said a Black student at Senn High School who protested on February 12 with dozens of other students in an all-day sit-in that has made national news. The hateful, racist “go back to your country” poison being spread across this country is what a teacher told a Latina student when she courageously refused to stand up for the national anthem during a “Hispanic Heritage” school assembly at the end of January.

According to news reports, the students who sat during the anthem did so to protest what America is doing to immigrants and refugees, as well as police brutality. An article in the online journal Block Club Chicago quoted the student who was targeted, “These young people have the same experiences as me and want to come here, but are dying. They’re put in cages, treated as animals. And I’m over here, living the life, but not fighting for them?”

Her determination, morality, and refusal to back down is part of what inspired others to stand up, demanding the school take action against the teacher. The student who said his heart hurt added that he felt so happy to protest, to actually do something about what happened.

The Revolution Club issued a statement featuring “Top 10 Reasons to Sit Down for the Nasty-full Anthem” and an introduction to Bob Avakian, and why this is not the way the world has to be. We took the flyers to Senn, a large and diverse school on the North Side, and got out about 400 of them. After school, about 30 students stopped to talk with us, some quite deeply.

There was widespread pride in the sit-in protest and also important sentiment in favor of the original protest during the national anthem. One student described how immigrants are being hunted and captured in this country and it is right not to respect that. A Black student who sat during the anthem said she did it “for those who couldn’t,” and posed, “Why am I supposed to respect something that doesn’t love or respect me back?”

Students who were in the sit-in said it was about the teacher and it was bigger than that. They talked about being told to stop speaking Spanish by a teacher and other students. One student said that through the protest, more came out about not only racism but sexual harassment and discrimination against students with disabilities. She added that they protested because students were kept in the dark about what was being done about the teacher. In the wake of the protest, he has been removed temporarily while the school district investigates.

Most students weren’t looking at how this relates to larger questions sharpening up in the society as a whole, even as the original anthem protest was about those larger questions. Only one student linked the “go back to your country” comment to the need to get Trump out. However, when we helped them look at the bigger picture and deeper roots, including what America is and why this way of life isn’t permanent, there were a lot of people who wanted to talk about it, and an intensity of emotion.

One student commented that white supremacy will always be around. We pointed to our flyer: “Because the United States was founded on slavery, Black people still have no rights this white supremacist system is bound to respect, and there is an epidemic of unpunished murder by police.” We talked about how white supremacy is generated and kept going by this capitalist-imperialist system, but we could uproot it with a different system. We pointed to where our flyer says there is a new framework for human emancipation because of the leadership of Bob Avakian, including a Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. And we read a quote about how this new system would be oriented to “welcome[ing] immigrants from all over the world who have a sincere desire to contribute to the goals and objectives of this Republic....”

The student commented along the lines that a different kind of society does change what’s possible. Other students were intrigued about the Constitution and the strategy for revolution, even though they didn’t follow their questions through too deeply. One student who looked through the “5-2-6” and was finding out about BA said she thinks more people don’t know about him because people dismiss communism and she was interested in learning more about the new communism.

When confronted with where the Trump/Pence regime is taking society and why students haven’t been doing anything about that, a student said bluntly that what the regime is doing is “terrifying” and described feeling helpless in the face of it. She said Greta Thunberg is speaking in front of nations and being dismissed as just a kid, so what power do high school students have to do anything? She and others also brought up that they have tried to do something to change things, like protesting the school shootings, and they talked about students now growing up in essentially a war zone. The students who started thinking about how a whole different society could be possible wanted to know more about all this and gave a way to follow up with them.

Afterwards, a member of the Revolution Club said she was struck by how much the students are paying attention to important things and how sincerely caring they were about what is happening to other people, not just stuck in their phones. Another reflected that the protest opened up a window in people’s thinking, and they felt proud of doing something higher than themselves.

A leaflet handed out at the school by Revolution Club Chicago:


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