The robotics team from Pleasant Run Elementary is comprised of five fourth graders – three of which are Latinx and two are Black. After competing against and beating nearly 35 other teams from the Indianapolis area on Feb. 2, the Pleasant Run PantherBots were on cloud nine until it came time to leave.
As the students and their parents made their way to the parking lot, they could hear two or three children yell “Go back to Mexico” at the group, according to USA Today.
They were pointing at us and saying that ‘Oh my God, they are champions of the city all because they are Mexican. They are Mexican, and they are ruining our country,’ ” said Diocelina Herrera, the mother of PantherBot Angel Herrera-Sanchez.
Robotics, like many other areas of the STEM industry, is overwhelmingly filled with white male faces. So seeing a group of Black and Brown kids come in and blow away the competition likely rubbed rival parents the wrong way and resulted in them tapping into the casual racism they deny exists in the first place.
“For the most part, the robotics world is kind of a white world,” said Lisa Hopper, the team’s coach and a Pleasant Run second-grade teacher. “They’re just not used to seeing a team like our kids.
RELATED: Even the Middle Schoolers In Wake County N.C. Are Racist
“And they see us and they think we’re not going to be competition. Then we’re in first place the whole day, and they can’t take it,” she continued.
The February event was hosted by Plainfield High School and the school district responded swiftly after being made aware of the racist incident.
“We don’t condone that behavior; we don’t tolerate it in our schools,” said Sabrina Kapp, director of communications for Plainfield Community School Corp. “We talk a lot about community values here. That is simply not something that anybody associated with Plainfield schools would put up with.”
Fortunately, the Pleasant Run PantherBots were determined to not let the disgusting acts of a bunch of sore losers keep them from excelling.
Not only did they go on to win an award for the best robot design and engineering at the state championships, but they also qualified for the Vex IQ World Championship in Louisville. They accomplished all of this after knowing almost nothing about robotics just a few months ago before their school was given a grant to start a program.
“They yelled out rude comments, and I think that they can talk all they want because at the end we’re still going to Worlds,” said team leader Elijah Goodwin, 10. “It’s not going to affect us at all. I’m not surprised because I’m used to this kind of behavior.
“When you have a really good team, people will treat you this way,” he said. “And we do have a pretty good team.”