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Marist students kneel in 'disrespect' during Mexican song at homecoming in viral video

The video was reportedly recorded by a junior called Elizabeth Pacheco, who said: 'they started saying really disrespectful things about Mexicans'
UPDATED OCT 12, 2021
Marist High School exterior view and a scene from the racist incident that took place at the homecoming dance (Facebook/Marist High School and Twitter/@EricTylerTV)
Marist High School exterior view and a scene from the racist incident that took place at the homecoming dance (Facebook/Marist High School and Twitter/@EricTylerTV)

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: Students at Marist High School, a private Catholic preparatory high school located in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood of Chicago, are being accused of racism. This came after a viral video showed a large group of students kneeling at the school's homecoming dance on Saturday, October 9, when the DJ played a Mexican line dancing song, ‘Payaso del Rodeo’. The school is now investigating these allegations.

As per reports, on Saturday, Marist defeated Montini Catholic High School, 34-0, in its homecoming football game. Later that night, hundreds of students attended the dance, which was held on a field outside the school at 4200 W. 115th Street. 

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As per the DailyDot, the video captured on TikTok had been viewed more than 332,000 times by October 11. The video was reportedly recorded by a junior called Elizabeth Pacheco. The 16-year-old said that she and a friend were enjoying the dance until about 8 pm when the incident happened.

"People immediately started booing and kneeling, and everyone knows from the National Anthem that kneeling means protesting. They were against the song," Pacheco said, adding it only got worse from there. She said that students who were line dancing to the song were disrupted by the so-called protesters. "They started saying really disrespectful things about Mexicans and that's when I started to record," Pacheco said.

Pacheco said some students booed and jeered, while others purposely disrupted a line dance formation. Both she and her friend Maia Trevino, 16, said they heard one classmate make an apparently racist comment. “Ugh, it’s Mexicans,” both teens of Mexican descent, recalled the student saying.

Elizabeth Pacheco (left) and Maia Trevino pose in their homecoming dresses on October 9, 2021. (Elizabeth Pacheco via the Chicago Sun-Times)

“I’m trying to understand their point of view,” Pacheco said of her classmates. “But when it’s something that’s so wrong that just targets you and your community, it’s really upsetting. I kind of can’t see them the same anymore.” Trevino said that while her family members had warned her about the discrimination they’d faced in the past, that awareness didn’t prepare her for this incident “I never thought that that would ever happen to me, especially in a school where I felt safe and appreciated and with friends — who I considered friends,” she said. “Seeing them kneel and disrespect what I am ... and the culture I represent ... it doesn’t feel good.”

Pacheco, who said she didn't know how to react at that time, said when she returned home, she couldn't believe what had happened, adding that no staff stepped in to stop students from making racist remarks. "That's what made me so upset, they were right by the DJ when it was happening, but they didn't do anything," Pacheco said. "I felt really belittled, and as a minority, there's only 16 percent of us at our school. I felt really disrespected."

The school issued a statement on social media in the aftermath. “Marist High School was made aware of a post on social media concerning the events at our Homecoming celebration this past weekend,” it said. “Marist’s mission is to make Jesus known and loved. We respect and foster diversity, equity, and inclusion for all and want every student to succeed by feeling valued, seen, and connected. We, as a school, promote cultural diversity and are providing professional development on cultural competency for staff and students. Marist High School is fully investigating the events and will address them as appropriate.”


Pacheco said this wasn't the first time a racial incident had occurred at the school. She said of the school’s statement, "They talk the talk, but they don't want to walk.” She said, "I feel like they kind of use us as a token or picture to make their diversity mark by putting banners, and asking for pictures with family during Hispanic Heritage Month. But this isn't the first time. Racism happens at our school, and I think it's really important for the school to educate students and there should be consequences and apologies made other than discipline.”

On September 15, when the predominantly Hispanic kitchen staff started playing Spanish-language music to mark the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Pacheco alleged that some White students booed, and one mockingly used what she described as a "stereotypical Mexican accent".

The two juniors also recalled a 2016 incident from before they were enrolled in the school. Two white students were reportedly expelled in 2016 over racist text messages that were shared on social media. The girls’ fathers later sued the school in Cook County court seeking $1 million. Later, the girls were allowed to receive their diplomas. 

"I think they need to educate them and have them change their ways and open their hearts for different cultures, to be respectful like we are to theirs,” the 16-year-old said. “These are future doctors, teachers, and lawyers — if they're going to act this way, I think now is the time for them to change."