Final Exam, Written in Blood
Dreamed 2019/6/16 by Wayan
I'm taking my final exam in an anthropology class. The teacher, Kuroga, has been been consistently unfair to me. But she's not unusual. I'm the only one of my minority group in class, and all my classmates openly shun me. So hostile I'd have quit long ago, but this class is required for my degree.
I must draw four tiny designs like mandalas or shields, as answers. Easy. In fact, already done, quite well, by some alter ego. Next I must write essays--a page each. But no paper provided! I hunt for some. Takes forever. Then my pen dies. I seek my backup. Missing--or swiped while I looked for paper!
Ask my classmate for a pen. "No."
So I drily and rather loudly say "Here's FIVE BUCKS for the first person to give me a working PEN."
"No." Not just from the one next to me. From EVERYONE in class, including the teacher.
Okay. Clear enough. They'll collude to be sure I don't finish the exam, don't graduate.
I pull out a knife and slash my thumb. Blood wells. Write my answers--big, short, concise answers--in my own blood. The last question has to do with shame-cultures and the power of shunning! Supposed to write a full page. I do--three huge blotchy, bloody letters that do answer the question AND fill that page: "Q.E.D." The ink I was forced to write my answer with demonstrates exactly the power of shunning. And its limits. Despite their sabotage I turn in a complete test, and walk out.
I went in, reminded her when and where she okayed it, and pointed out that her claim required me to be lying to her right now; if I were protesting something, wouldn't I still protest it? Whatever the hell "it" was. Her story about me was just inconsistent. My claim at least made sense--a dozen of us mobbed her with requests, and she forgot one out of twelve; no malice, no craziness, no rebellion, just a na´ve student who trusted a verbal agreement from a tired, mobbed teacher.
She refused to believe me, or grade my work on its merits. My grades from sane teachers were so high she couldn't lower my average nearly enough to endanger my Pell Grant--the only way I could afford college--but if I'd been borderline she could have cost me my scholarship.
As I read in My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers that redlining wasn't individual bigots but institutional racism, I didn't consciously recall my old teacher. But the dream made the analogy explicit. In real life, I triggered some bizarre prejudice in Koruga alone; that bias was bad enough--like facing a racist loan agent. But the dream contrasted this with how group bias feels--institutional or universal bias.
Had Koruga been some fossil prof who mansplained how women can't do math, or ranted how Pearl Harbor proved ya can't trust those Japs, or used the N-word... I think I'd have understood sooner that what she did was bias. But despite her institutional power, she was still a solo bigot. That's different from unanimous hostility or open, institutional policy. And that's what redlining was--and segregation generally. Having felt the power of that in the dream, I have to support reparations.
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