Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My Stupid Assumptions

At the end of last semester, a friend of mine’s brother passed away. I have known this person for eleven years now, and I know how much he revered his older brother; all through middle school he would tell stories about him and painted him in a perfect light. He was a border patrol agent and he passed away while on duty. During this time the stress over the state of the laws regarding the U.S.-Mexico border and immigrants were much more prevalent in the news. Immediately, I assumed he had been killed somehow in the line of action; I conjured up images of a man dealing with rowdy, desperate people trying to cross the border at all costs in pursuit of a better future. My assumption was that he somehow fell because of another person’s actions, particularly an illegal alien attempting to bust into the country. Of course, this whole scene flashed as a quick and vague scene in my head, but it nevertheless occurred. Turns out his brother was involved in a car accident on a routine survey of the border.

I didn’t think much of it then, but after reading the first half of Borderlands/ La Frontera I realized I made the same mistake Gloria Anzaldùa was raging against. My assumption was not simply a thought in a vacuum but a value judgment based on cultural biases and a thoughtless approach to them. I set up a dichotomy of a white person doing his job and the Mexican trying to smuggle himself into MY country. What’s more, I even made this “other” responsible for the loss of a human life. I never considered myself a racist, and I still don’t, but when I don’t examine my thought processes and what they lead to I become responsible for perpetuating this dichotomy of subjection founded on ignorance.

This is a massive part of Anzaldùa’s philosophy: rebelling against the herd in order to see the world without the veil of conventionality. By sticking with the crowd and using their thoughts to unquestionably shape one’s view on reality, a person quits on their own Self. This is also an incredibly stagnant way to live since the herd exists according to ease, not truth. So, the easiest way – the laziest way – is to stay still and run on old, expired assumptions. Instead, according to Anzaldùa, one should encounter it with their authentic Self and ever-adapting to avoid running on past assumptions. This constant adaptability according to one’s own interaction with the world allows a perpetual redefining of truth along with an ever-changing world. It is in this way that one keeps from falling into prejudices established without direct experience, prejudices founded antiquated and ignorant opinions of suppressors.

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