Sunday, January 29, 2017

Avocado Racism

            The other day, I saw a post online about a sign seen at one of the anti-Trump rallies. The sign, pictured below, reads: “Put Avocado On Racism So White People Will Pay Attention #NotMyPresident”.  I’m not a huge fan of avocados, but this made me chuckle. What was meant as a jab at white people turned out to be a bit more serious as people realized Trump’s plan for a wall between the US and Mexico would raise the prices of imported avocados and guacamole. I’ve seen posts on Facebook and other social media sights where people have gotten into arguments over where the US gets its avocados, and whether they will be directly affected by this plan for a wall, all while ignoring the social injustice of its being built. Hobbes would say the reason for my laughter lies in my realizing I am “superior to someone else,” I would say it is because I recognized a silly social trend and felt smart for connecting it to a political situation (Hobbes 19).  So, as it turns out, putting avocado on racism did get some more white people to pay attention to what was going on.
Since reaching the ability to form my own political judgments, I’ve always been attuned to how other people have been treated. My parents instilled the idea that being a middle class white person grants me with a degree of privilege other people do not have, and that I should use that privilege to fight for what is right. While it made me laugh, this sign also made me sad. I realized that a lot of people care more about the cost of an avocado than they do about the lives of other people. I don’t agree with Plato saying laughter is “something to be avoided,” but I can see where he is coming from when he says we end up laughing at the vices of others (Plato 10). In this case, people who laugh at the sign are laughing at the ignorance of others—the people who care more about a fruit than they do about a life.
Signs like this one, and the many others seen at the various marches and rallies that have taken place all over the world recently, are examples showing that a large population is not receiving proper education according to Kolvenbach. If our education system worked perfectly, these signs would not be necessary because we would all be “men for others; who will live not for themselves” (Kolvenbach 29). He correctly states that tomorrow’s “whole person” must be educated in such a manner that allows him to “contribute socially, generously, in the real world” (34). While these signs are examples of a lack of education, they are also beacons of hope. They show that people out there see what is wrong with our society and are doing their part to make a change.
Just like the nonviolent resistance detailed in King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” the signs at these demonstrations seek “so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored” (King 2). These humorous signs are just another variation of peaceful resistance. On that note, one is equally likely to see signs with jokes on them as they are to see signs with Kingsian slogans such as “justice too long delayed is justice denied” (King 2). Some people use humor to reach a certain audience, perhaps a younger audience, and some people use more direct slogans as a slightly more aggressive way of making people realize there is a problem in society. It is sad to think that the next generation will be able to study and compare which signs were more effective in inciting social change when this time in history is over.

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