GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:
OK, so Spanish class, High School - we're about to have the big Christmas pageant and you've got to understand, the teacher hates me - hates me. He says stuff like, Washington, give me a reason. Just give me a reason. One more screw-up and you're out of here - fail.
Well, we're supposed to sing "Feliz Navidad," right? But I can't sing that because I don't celebrate Christmas. For my family, Christmas is a pagan affliction delivered by Satan. Look, that's how I grew up, all right?
So I go to the teacher. I tell him, teacher I can't sing "Feliz Navidad" and stuff because I don't want to go to hell.
And the teacher man says, listen - you're going to sing, or you're going to fail.
So there it was.
For the merry celebration we huddle in groups of four and when he points to us we're supposed to jump up and say, Feliz Navidad.
And the teacher looks at me. He looks at me with authority. He looks at me with all the power of the high school faculty chair oozing from his pores. And I look at him with no power at all. He holds up his arms, he points at us and three students jump up and shout, Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad.
And I sit, watching them. Watching him. Saying nothing.
The teacher starts shouting, spittle flying from his mouth in rage, Washington, you - out of my class. To the principal's office. Right now. Fail. Fail.
My ears ringing, I shuffled down the empty hallway, marching down to the principal's office. Kicked out of class? Fail? No high school graduation? Man.
I arrive at the office.
I mumble to the lady that I need to speak with the principal. She gives me her aren't you the worst person in the world look.
But just like jail, before meeting the principal I get one phone call, to call my mom and dad. Not this time. Not again. I'm not going to call my mom and dad. I'm suffering an injustice here and someone needs to know about it. Instead, I call the Grand Rapids Press. I tell the lady who answers, I say, looky here - my civil rights are being violated because I didn't want to sing "Feliz Navidad."
She says she'll transfer me to a reporter. Then things start happening really quickly. Glynn, who are you speaking to?
The principle - he's in my face now. Oh, it is too late. I'm blowing the whistle on this whole operation.
I tell him, I've got the newspaper on the line.
I tell him what just went down in class. I remember his eyes going wide.
The principal, he grabs my arm, he walks me back to class. He pulls my seat out for me. He says what a fine fellow I happen to be and then he asks my Spanish teacher if they can speak in the hallway, for just a moment. Just a moment.
I don't even have to tell you the look the Spanish teacher gave me. When the shouting in the hallway stops, my teacher comes back into the classroom, walks to the front and says through gritted teeth that, the school celebrates people of all religious and ethnic backgrounds and will endeavor to respect their belief systems. Yeah. That's right. That's right.
After class I walked out with my head held high. But I couldn't stop whistling this catchy little tune, this catchy little tune got stuck in my head. (Whistling tune of "Feliz Navidad"). Today on SNAP JUDGMENT, from PRX and NPR we proudly present "Rage Against The Machine," stories where they've got plans for you, but you - you've got plans for them.
My name is Glynn Washington and this is SNAP JUDGMENT.
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