Monday, August 14, 2017

The Allegory Of The Race Train

A black man buys a railway ticket and enters a train. He finds a seat next to a window and sits down. Soon after a white man buys a railway ticket, makes his way onto the train, and enters the same section as the black man, finds a spot a couple of seats behind the black man and sits down. An hour goes by with neither man talks to the other. Then another hour. Upon the third hour of the trip the train takes a hard sharp curve, causing the train to shake. The black man, curious about what's causing the commotion, decides to look through the window, but it's night and all he sees is an empty field lit by the moonlight. The train jostles again. Confused, the black man then decides to open the window, sticking his head out of the moving train to investigate. Meanwhile the white man notices something near the upcoming tracks. The white man suddenly yells at the black man saying, "Nigger, get your head back in here before you get hit by that sign!" Upon hearing this, the black man becomes angry, turns his head to yell at the other passenger and in less than a minute loses it, head crashing into a railway sign. The black man dies.

Who is responsible for the death of the black man?

The gut reaction of some people is to answer that it's the fault of the white man. The white man didn't need to yell "nigger" (a contemptuous term for a black or dark-skinned person) to the black man. The white man must have known this would make the black man angry. From this some could claim the white man must have had motives or some ill intent to say "nigger" to the black man thus the white man believes the black man to be inferior in some manner even though they are both passengers on the same train. Some may even use the evidence of the white man not sitting next to the black man as some sort of disapproval of black people. The implication of "disapproval" here is what most in our society call "racism." Therefore the death of the black man is predicated on the assumption that not only the white man is responsible, but that racism is responsible. In spite of this, I've decided not only is the white man not responsible in this scenario, but that racism never existed.

Referencing the allegory, we see that both are men, one "white" and one "black," both are passengers and both have the ability to view the window safely from inside of the train car. For those wondering, the newfound racial argument of power plus prejudice equaling racism doesn't apply here, because both are passengers, none is the conductor or person of power or authority. The differences which caused death were not racial, but are primarily based on what actions each took in response to the train shaking. Examining these actions, ignoring for race, we see that one man put his head out of the window, while the other soon afterward warned him about the upcoming danger. Understandably the main objection would be "you can't take race out of the equation," "you can't ignore the when term 'nigger' was used." To this I say, why not? Listen to what the white man said again and ask yourself, did the white man lie? The white man saw the danger and saw the black man putting his head out of the window. He then decided to tell the black man the truth in a very harsh manner. Nevertheless the truth is the truth even when wrapped in crass or rude language. Is it not a fact that if the black man wanted to keep his head he would've moved it back inside of the train car? Keeping your head and knowing the truth should be more important than losing it reacting to the uncouth nature of others.

Next the question becomes, could there have been an optimal way to tell the truth? If the white man would've said "Hey there dude, get your head back in here! A sign is coming up ahead!" The assumption by many would be that the black man would've listened to him, but how would we know this for certain. How polite should the white man have been for the black man to take his warning seriously? Let's replace the white man for a black man and have him warn the other, "Nigger, get your head back in here before you get hit by that sign!" Would it suddenly be polite then? Would the black man have lost his head?

Regardless of these questions, in the allegory there was a purpose to the action the black man did. He wanted to find out what was going on for himself. After the second jolt of the train, he decided to put his head out of the window. Honestly, we can't say for certain if the black man would've pulled his head back into the train car, but what we can say is that the word "nigger" when stated, invoked a negative response from the black man, which some claim left him no other option than to become angry and while distracted he died. However this is wrong. They're ignoring one side of the equation in favor of another, again they use the premise of racism as a motivation for the black man's death. If you believe the white man should've known better than to say the word "nigger," then should you also believe the black man should've known better and put his head out the window, or remove it when someone warns him of danger? If there ought to be a good way to tell the truth, shouldn't there also be a good way to respond to the truth, regardless of the way it is packaged? If the answer is no, then the black man's emotional response, the same response which clouded the truth to the danger, is made more valid than the truth itself. The black man becomes the perpetual victim no matter what action he would've done because people would rather put focus on how the truth was said rather than what the truth was.

Next, how do we know the white man is racist? How would anyone know without a any doubt the white man is a person who engages in discrimination or prejudice directed against others of a different race based on the belief that his own race is superior? The answer is we don't but what we do know is although he said the derogatory term of "nigger," the mere attempt to warn the black man about the upcoming danger indicates something other than malice or hatred. Yes, it was rude to use the word "nigger," but would a racist white man who disregards the life of another person due to race, have warn him at all? Yet the white man did. What does this tell us about his character? Why would a man tell another man the truth if not to benefit the flourishing of the other?

This is my main contention the term racism. It's vague presentation in the world today makes it nearly impossible to locate or pin point it in our lives or even in this silly allegory. How would I truly know if someone or something is racist? Do they have to say a crass racial term for me to know for sure? Could someone have internalized racism? Couldn't a racist person decide not to say crass language and engage in racist action? What is racist action? Is it the action of prejudice? Is there a person alive who makes massive presumptions of character based on only the race of another person? I would say no. When we view others we take in the whole of that person in the moment. We notice body language, clothing, hair color, eye color, height, weight, voice (if they speak), smell, as well as skin color, and even this is not all. We take into account not only the person's voice, but what they're saying, how they say it, and most importantly what actions they take, not to mention the results of those actions. If we know this to be true, why is it easy for us to believe in the concept of racism or that we may be racist? Why do we believe one person or a group of persons can purely use race as a criteria for perceiving others?

It's important to note I'm not saying there aren't people who make judgements declaring them to be based on race, what I'm saying they don't merely take race into account. Usually they address history, their own personal experience, overall trends using data of those who identify themselves a specific race, ethnicity, or culture. Now is this racist? I wouldn't say so. According to the CDC, it is a fact that nearly 3 in 4 black (or African American) children are born illegitimately.  It is also a fact that homicide is the number one cause of death for black males between the ages of 15-34. Are these facts racist? While there are some who would make the claim just categorizing statistics by race is racist, most understand these stats are addressing a group's behavior (or the result of behaviors) more so than the color of the specific category. Merit or virtue determines performance, not race. Interestingly enough this presumption of facts being labeled bigotry also exists when addressing differences between the sexes. I'll talk more about this in an upcoming article on misogyny.

When a person accepts racism as possible, it makes any solution to it impossible. As it is defined, it is a mental framework which cannot be solved by policies, rhetoric, or in this case allegories, but still people want to put more focus on the existence of racism than the real issues behind what they deem to be "racist" rhetoric. The more I reflect on the allegory of the "race train" the more it becomes clear that the sheer acceptance of the concept of racism has the potential to cloud our judgement and paralyses the search as well as recognition of truth. That truth being, we are not struggling with flesh and blood but against the evils of deception, confusion, and lies. When we're too focused on the intentions of others or the offenses we feel, we let our emotions get the better of us and we begin to care very little about the actions we engage in and the result of those actions upon our lives. The black community is a clear example of this stagnation in truth because when faced with the dilemma of harms the black community racism or moral bankruptcy, most choose racism. Most choose to blame the white man. Most lose their head in the process.

Friday, May 5, 2017

How I Became A Conservative Unicorn: I Went To Public School

Whenever someone is curious enough to ask me what my political leanings are, I usually let them know that politically I'm a conservative unicorn: a person who doesn't fit the stereotypical "face" of a conservative. If you didn't receive the memo, a conservative is usually a close-minded traditionalist, white, cis-gendered male, whose life is privileged regardless of his social or economic status. Although I don't care for the "close-minded" or "white privilege" sentiment, there is a vein of truth in this stereotype. According to the Pew Research Center study on deep divides between United States political parties, there are "sharp differences between race, gender, generation, and education." Demographic groups that tilt Democratic are blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Asians, post-graduate women, the religiously unaffiliated, and those born into the millennial generation (those ages 18-33). Now I'm not going to argue that the statistics or that the stereotype is wrong, however I'm a college educated, Hispanic, millennial woman, but I've been leaning politically conservative since grade school. To many I shouldn't exist. How does a young Hispanic girl from Chicago, a city enveloped by liberal policies and values, become a conservative unicorn? It's simple; I went to public school.

Before I elaborate on the environmental influence leading to my political choice, on a previous blog post I mentioned how inherent personality can explain why people engage in certain types of political behavior. To do this I examined prominent feminists what types of choices they make politically and how these choices may reflect there inherent personality. As for myself, using the same (Big Five) framework to describe my personality, it does reflect the personality of someone who would be typically conservative. Although I'm open to all types of information, I'm conscientious and value order,  hard work, and perseverance. Frankly, I don't believe people are born "blank slates." We are all born with personalities that can be shaped by outside factors. As for myself one of the major factors that influenced the way I think about politics was my journey through the government bureaucracy called the Chicago Cook County public school system.

After living in Puerto Rico for almost two years, my parents decided to move back to the United States, and I was sent to (a predominately African-American) public school. As I started school in the second grade it became apparent what the school's motto should've been, "ask not what your school can do for you, but what you can do for your school." If a student was to succeed, the school would succeed, no matter if the school was responsible for the student's success or not. However if a student failed or disrupted the classroom the whole class would be punished. Collective justice, the idea that we are our brother's (and sister's) keeper, is one of the most fundamental moral lessons taught to most while attending public school. My school was just one of many that decided to take it upon themselves to promote values founded upon the philosophy that it takes a village to raise a child and no child should be treated unfairly. Newly instated fair school programs such as free student breakfast and lunch, because children who are impoverished should be feed for free, even though in most situations their parents are being paid by the government to feed them. Other changes included the dismantling of the school uniforms, because some parents felt they were not affordable or wanted their children to wear some outfit they bought them. As for academic changes, the school to created a specialized class for gifted students. It lasted less than a week due to complaints from some parents due to their child not being one of the few students privileged enough to join the class.
Although these incidents annoyed me, at the time I was quite indifferent, and throughout my early school life I never questioned the intentions of the school authorities. If they said they were working for the good of the students then, no matter how idiotic they seemed, their solutions had to be worth it. It wasn't until the fourth grade when I picked up a book and read the simple line, "all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." George Orwell's Animal Farm was my gateway into questioning the true intentions of authority when compared to the results. The system I was placed in began to dissolve and reveal in it's place the consequence of a revolution in political thought within public education, in which every teacher was a believer in the soft bigotry of low expectations. Since these expectations were low investment, usually tossing money at the perpetual problem, ought to be done.

In the 2017 school year, the Cook County school district invests an average of $12,075 per student, and administration along with teachers still want more. Why? Teachers and faculty cry out that every student, no matter their race or gender deserves not only an education, but a quality education. All student outcomes must not merely be equal, but equal and of the same quality. In my opinion the quality is poor but if you disagree with this opinion, it is a fact the quality is poor. According to the Chicago Sun Times, the Illinois State Board of Education tests in reading and mathematics lead to the result to "one in four CPS students in grades three through eight and high school performed at a level necessary for post-secondary education." When taking into consideration the race of most of these students in these Chicago Public Schools, it becomes inevitable that someone will use this as a means for political and social outrage, along with a steady flow of income.

But is this true progress if the result leaves many students lacking in independence, confidence, along with social and educational skills? By questioning the results of the bureaucratic nature public education system along with the authority that surrounded me, I was able to forgo the collectivist principle of equality within the public commune, and in it's place a more conservative and individualistic framework spurred by my personality began to take shape, and to take this step and seek diversity of political and philosophical thinking as a young girl of Puerto Rican heritage within a public school environment, is what I call progress.