Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Humor in Authority

     I graduated from one of the largest public high schools in Mississippi in 2015. Throughout those four years, I witnessed theft, bullying, bomb threats, violence, and accidents caused by carelessness. So to counteract these disruptive behaviors, the school hired a squad of approximately 10-15 security guards to do everything from monitoring booths in the parking lot to handling fights in the hallways. In theory, these new employees should have solved problems but instead, the student body viewed these “guards” as jokes, causing more issues. Perhaps this is because the average security guard was overweight, did not speak distinct English, and had one job… to suck the “fun” out of high school.

     It is interesting to me how the perception of being overweight has changed over time. In Candide, being obese like the Baron’s lady meant having “the honours of the house with a dignity that commanded still greater respect” (Voltaire 1). However 200 years later, the “white papa dog” (Kasaipwalova 433) with his red face and big stomach shows that we no longer perceive obesity as a demand for respect. Reading about the rotundness of the authoritative figure and how he could not grab the narrator of the story reminded me of the annual backpack race in my high school. Every year, the majority of the senior boys would race from the cafeteria to the baseball field with their backpacks after lunch for a chance of winning a child’s backpack (my senior year it was a One Direction backpack that was definitely purchased on sale). The overweight security guards would normally drive around the campus in golf carts in attempt to see and stop any trouble. But when 100 18 year old boys started running full speed through campus, I watched as the security guards either drove out of the hoard’s way or attempted to chase it down (the boys were much faster than the golf cart). I was very amused watching the authoritative figures make a slight attempt at catching the group of boys racing, as for a split second it was a switch in the power of our high school. It also was just a visual representation of how the student body perceived the security guards – to us, they were nothing more than fat people riding around on golf carts attempting, and mostly failing, to maintain order. Looking back on the situation from a more mature perspective, I understand that the backpack race was probably a dangerous situation and the guards were just trying to avoid accidents, similar to how section 32 was securing the safety of the airplanes in Batel Nut Is Bad Magic for Airplaines. 

      Although the South is much more open to African Americans today than it was in the past, there are still many examples of racial profiling and stereotyping in Mississippi. Similar to the Black Lives Matter argument in Baltimore, the majority of disciplinary actions at my high school were taken against black students. To be fair to the guards, the African American students were seen causing trouble far more often than the white students. Because fights and violence happened so often at my school among this demographic, there was a lower tolerance for troublemakers who were African American. The black students were rarely given a warning and were watched more carefully than the white students. For example, if one white boy shoved another, the guard would look the other way, assuming it was just a playful push. But if a black boy shoved another, he would be told to stop and possibly taken to the man in charge of handling discipline. Many of the students would further the situation by arguing with the guards in public, similar to how the narrator did in Batel Nut. These confrontations were always humorous and amusing to the other students watching but looking back on it now, it was unfair how differently black and white people were treated by authoritative figures. This is similar to how the guard in Batel Nut is a “bloody white racist” (438), trying to get the black men in trouble at the airport. I think it is sad how we are still judging a man’s character and violence based on the color of his skin and how in some parts of the country, this is seen as normal, everyday life, starting at the age of 14 when students enter high school. Looking back at it now, from a different perspective as a student in a private university where most students are from the Northeast, I can see the differences in discipline and wish the authoritative figures would give the same chances to all students, regardless of race.

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