American History Questions and Answers
by Judith Ortiz Cofer

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What are three examples of racial inequality that Elena faced?

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Elena, the main character in the short story “American History,” was a ninth grader at Public School Number 13 but she hated it there. She was a victim of racial inequality as evidenced by several incidences. Firstly, the black girls at her school abused her by calling her Skinny Bones and making scathing remarks about her native heritage when she failed to turn the rope to their pace. Their racist comments caused Elena to feel insecure about her physique and stirred a sense of inferiority within her. Secondly, despite the fact that she was a distinguished grade A student, she was not admitted to the honors classes because English was not her first language. This was unlike Eugene’s case, an American native, who enjoyed such privileges. Perhaps the most severe racial inequality incident occurred when Elena went to Eugene’s house to study. Eugene’s mother was blunt about Elena’s social status based on where she lived and rudely dismissed any form of friendship between Elena and her son. She held such prejudiced sentiments that Elena was left feeling shocked and sad. That night, Elena cried not because of the president’s demise, but because of her own situation.

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