The shadow of "American Dirt" swallows its main critic, Myriam Gurba
She was the first to point out the Latin stereotypes in Jeanine Cummins' best-seller, and now she has lost her teaching job to a serious accusation. What is the price of raising your voice?
It happened last Friday and under the astonished gaze of students at the Long Beach Polytechnic High School, where the novelist and Latino professor taught psychology and sociology.
Myriam Gurba, the scourge of "American Dirt," was escorted out of the school and put on administrative leave for a few comments on networks where she came out in support of students who a month ago had dared to accuse another teacher of racism and aggression.
The teacher in question is Libby Huff, who teaches business at Long Beach Polly HS and is being investigated for serious allegations: Calling one of her students "N", pulling her hair, pulling her ears and throwing her a pen.
Although Huff was suspended by the school district last January, she returned to the classroom this month, only to be removed again as new charges were brought against her.
The matter escalated when some students alleged they had suffered retaliation from the school for talking to the police, which the district was quick to contest as Gurba made these accusations public in its networks, viralizing the scandal.
“HELP,” she tweeted Wednesday. “Scary things are happening at Poly. During the last period, campus security officers arrived in waves and ordered students to take their belongings w them. They told the kids that the reason they were being escorted away is confidential. They took ONLY Black & Brown students.”
I never thought I’d be making a tweet like this but a teacher at my school was called KICKED OUT after exposing another teacher as a rapist. Not only has he terrorized her for years, he’s getting away with it. This is at Long Beach Poly HS, please call (562)591-0581 & complain pic.twitter.com/ubNfFNELiv
— D ƪ(˘⌣˘)ʃ (@wh0rechatq) February 22, 2020
She also reported that the young people who had spoken out against the teacher, who was accused of racism, chose to stay at her house because they were anxious about the type of questioning and had come to Gurba earlier to tell her about the abuse they were receiving from Libby Huffs, according to the Daily Beast.
The center's response to the activist and writer's network advocacy was to suspend her as well because her behavior was "disruptive."
In an Instagram video, Gurba appears in tears as she pleads: "Apparently, I hurt the children. If I try to protect them, I'm a criminal."
She also criticized being ostracized since the "American Dirt" scandal:
“Once the American Dirt controversy broke, I noticed there was a change towards me when it came to my treatment by mostly white teachers. Many stopped saying hello to me or making eye contact,” she told The Daily Beast.
Myriam Gurba would explain how on Friday she sat on the sidewalk, once driven out of school, and while talking to a former student, a teacher approached her and told her to "shut up."
While the school district has not provided any further explanation for this suspension, Myriam Gurba told the LA Times that she is already in contact with lawyers waiting to know what the next steps are, while she receives messages of support from students through the networks.
The Mexican author of "Mean" came to the fore after the publication of "American Dirt", the novel by Jeanine Cummins about a mother and her son who flee from drug trafficking in Mexico and cross the border into the United States. A questionable work, which Gurba attacked fiercely in an article and whose critics were joined by many other Latino writers and activists, outraged by the many topics about Hispanics in this novel that was intended to be sold as the true story of migration.
The networks burned under the hashtag #DignidadLiteraria; a necessary debate was opened regarding the responsibility of the authors and the cultural appropriation that tries to take advantage of the tragedies of others. Even Oprah herself was embarrassed by her defense of the book.
Yet, despite the richness of the debates that took place and forced both Cummins and her publishers to apologize, "American Dirt" remains on the best-seller list.
One question hits us in the face: How much does the system always win, though a ray of light leaks through its many holes and cracks from time to time?