In Cofer's "American History," Eugene's mother says, "I don't know how you people do it." What does this comment explain about her attitude toward the Puerto Rican community?  

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Cofer's "American History," when Eugene's mother says, "I don't know how you people do it," she automatically creates an unequal relationship between Elena and herself. Whenever someone says "you people," there is a self-righteous attitude behind it. It's as though Eugene's mother looks down on Elena's Puerto Rican culture, which creates a tense situation. Even before Eugene's mom makes the "you people" comment, she asks Elena if she lives in the tenement building next door. From this question, Elena feels belittled.

Based on the mother's questions and behavior, one can infer that she does not like anyone who lives in El Building. It also seems as though this mother cannot imagine living in such a building like Elena's family does. One might further conclude that either Eugene's mother looks down on people who have less financially, or she is racist and does not want her Caucasian son to be involved with a Puerto Rican girl. It's unclear, but due to such rude behavior, Eugene's mother might be prejudiced against Elena for both of the above reasons. Whatever the specifics are, Eugene's mother certainly doesn't like that Elena lives in El Building, and she doesn't allow the young girl to enter her home or become better friends with her son.

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American History

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