Elijah Goodwin, 10; Angel Herrera-Sanchez, 9; Jose Verastegui, 10; Manuel Mendez, 9; and Devilyn Bolyard, 9 (Pleasant Run Elementary School)

Some bigoted parents in Indiana prove that the rotten apple doesn’t fall far from the diseased tree. They tried to ruin what should have been a very special moment for five black and Latinx 9- and 10-year-olds after they won a citywide robotics championship in Indianapolis.

“Go back to Mexico!” two or three kids and their parents screamed at the proud team parents, according to some who were there, proving that black and brown excellence just makes some white folks downright nasty.


Elijah Goodwin, 10; Angel Herrera-Sanchez, 9; Jose Verastegui, 10; Manuel Mendez, 9; and Devilyn Bolyard, 9, make up the Pleasant Run Elementary PantherBots, a team that, incredibly, just a few months ago knew nothing about robotics.

“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.

“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.

“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 said.


USA Today reports that nearly 35 schools competed in the Feb. 2 robotics challenge. Plainfield High School was the host, but the participating elementary school teams came from more than 20 communities in and around Indianapolis.

“I was afraid they would let [the comments] get in their heads and wig them out,” Hopper said. “We sat down and talked to our kids, and obviously we let them share their feelings.


“They were on top of it already,” she added. “They said: ‘We know they are mean. We know they were jealous. We’re not going to let it bother us.’ One of our guys said ‘to take stuff like that and let it make you stronger.’”

These kids already know that the best revenge against small-minded haters is success.


Three weeks after the incident, the PantherBots won the Create Award—for best robot design and engineering—at the state championships, which qualified them for the Vex IQ World Championship next month in Louisville, Ky. They will compete there with students from all over the world.

“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.”

Saddest parts: 1) Children screamed some of these ugly comments, and (2) The black and brown kids are already used to this crap.


Read more at USA Today.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Deputy Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.

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