Monday, August 03, 2009

Post-Racial America

I'm from down there in Louisiana, where it's way too hot to get into that denial game, for the most part. 

This means our governors are people like Edwin Edwards, he of the famous, "It wudn't illegal for me to take the bribe; it was illegal for him to offer it."

This means we not only run racists like David Duke for office, we elect the tools.

This means we openly have (or had) segregated schools and parades and entire parishes, and yards filled with Yats cracking open crawfish and Dixie beers willing to explain to you, in lazy lengthy detail, just why that is just fine.

So it's not that I am a stranger to racism, mind you.  On the other hand, when I got out to Idaho, the casual vehemence with which the white folk would discuss the local Indians -- mostly Bannock Indians, where we were living -- shocked me every time.  I remember an essay from a remedial English student that, every single draft, contained the line "Indians are lazy and stupid."

See, now, writing is a recursive process in my class.  This meant he turned in a draft, we met on it, I explained what I thought he might do to make it better, he wrote another draft, I explained what he might do, and so on.

So the first draft comes in, I underline that line, I explain, as gently and as much like Buddha as I can, why that's not such a cool thing to say.  Surely, I press him, not every Indian is lazy?  Surely he has not, first off, met every Indian?  Do you know all the Indians in the country, or even the county? I ask.  Do you have evidence to support this, I ask.  Do you see why this sentence will turn the reader against you, I ask.  Do you see why it would be better to say something less inflammatory, I ask.

The next draft says, "Indians are lazy and stupid."

I go over the paper with him.  He's made all the other changes I suggested, and more.  His writing in general is improving.  I underline the sentence.  I remind him of the discussions we have been having about Rogerian tactics in class.  I remind him about ad hominem attacks, and offensive language.  I send him on his way.

The next draft: "Indians are lazy and stupid."

And the next.  And the next.  

Finally I underline the stupid fucking sentence in red and write in the margin SAY THIS SOME OTHER WAY.

The final draft of the paper? "Indians are irresponsible, worthless, idiotic, useless, moronic, idiotic, losers."

Yeah, that's some good American family values for you.

is what I'm talking about, though.  If we could do more of what this group is trying to do, and less of that student and all his ilk (I imagine the counter-argument playing in his head, which he never voiced to me, went somewhat like, "What does it matter what I call it, you PC libral idiot, they'll still lazy and stupid even if I call them disadvantaged Native Americans, jeez-us."  Except, being a nice boy, he never would use G-D's name in vain that way) want done, it would be a finer country.

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