At Web Spanish, we have always believed that the best way to fight discrimination is to educate against it, focusing efforts on today’s children and youth and we feel that those who teach young people about other languages and cultures foster a more accepting and inclusive future. In today’s globalized world, it is imperative that we teach our children about diversity. For that reason, we believe that society should protect the institutions that are already in place, as well as create more opportunities for young people to learn about the diversity that exists in the world around them.
Recently PlaySpanish, a company in Charlotte, North Carolina that teaches preschoolers Spanish language and culture, announced on its web page that they would be closed temporarily – and perhaps permanently – as a result of the harassment of its Latino staff when stopped at police roadblocks in Charlotte and Gaston counties in North Carolina. They later published an update, saying that business was back to normal, but it’s clear that nerve’s were frayed to the point that the story was picked up by the local newspaper.
According to Ricardo Mara, the owner and operator of PlaySpanish, two of his instructors, one a U.S. citizen born in Puerto Rico and the other a permanent resident originally from Mexico, were stopped at police/immigration check points, harassed, verbally abused and, in one case, touched inappropriately by an who declared he was searching for weapons or drugs.
Mata employs seven instructors to teach as many as 3,700 children in preschools, day cares, and private homes. Some of the teachers he employs are immigrants. In the face of the persecution of his staff, Mata has considered closing down his business entirely in order to protect his instructors from harassment. If that were to happen, a very valuable service would be lost in the Charlotte community.
Mata perceives the incidents with members of his staff to be part of a growing epidemic of harassment against immigrants as a result of the election of Donald Trump. Yet despite whether or not these incidents were politically charged, harassment has no place in society. As fellow Spanish language teachers, we offer support for our colleagues who are facing discrimination around the world, and encourage them to persevere. Young people – and older people alike – need you now more than ever.