Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Maroon Out, Perot

What's more amazing than having biases ingratiated into you from early childhood is that fact that those biases are likely to remain with you, even to a small extent. This has certainly happened to me. And no, my parents never tried to brainwash me (though my older sister may be another story). I am talking about all the little prejudices, beliefs, and viewpoints that naturally occur as you grow up.

Everyone tells dumb people jokes. For some people those come in the form of blonde joke. For others, they are redneck jokes. For me, they were Aggie jokes. I can remember being about six years old and honestly believing that the word Aggie implied a shortage of brain cells or some sort of mental deficiency. Basically I thought if you called someone an Aggie, you were calling them stupid. Only later did I learn that the word refers to a person who has attended Texas A&M. All the jokes that normally start out with "So a redhead, a brunette, and a blonde...." for me began with "So a Longhorn, a Raider, and an Aggie...." (As a sidenote, I'm sure this bias had nothing to do with the fact that my dad went to the University of Texas and my mom to Texas Tech.)

Another bias involves the politics. Despite being eight years old and knowing nothing about politics in 1992, I sure had a lot of opinions about who should be in the White House. I can still remember my childlike evaluation: Ross Perot was a joke, Bill Clinton was dumb, and George Bush was... the best. What information did I form these in-depth thoughts on? I actually have no idea, but it must have been a combination of what I heard at home and at school.

Ah, school, where someone thought it would be a great idea to have our own mini presidential election. And since kids will fight over anything and everything, who you were voting for quickly became sumpremely important. Even as elementary students, we endlessly discussed the election at lunchtime teasing the Perot voters for "throwing their votes away." Who you were voting for became a status symbol, even if none of us comprehended even an iota of what we were talking about. And I can still remember a joke* that spread throughout the school like wildfire about all the candidates.

Of course Bush ended up winning (we're talking about a Christian school in Texas), but we all know that's not how things turned out in real life. I have the distinct memory of going to bed the night of the election and announcing to my mother that I would instinctively know who had won when I woke up in the morning, because "If I wake up and have a bad feeling, I'll know Clinton is our president!"

So naturally we have grown up with these little quirks and mini biases. The dangerous thing that happens, and it happens a lot, is that so many of us carry on these beliefs without re-evaluating once we're older. That's how prejudice gets passed down, and how so many people don't learn to think for themselves.

As I grew up, I gradually conceded that Aggies are not stupid people. I recognize that A&M is a good school. But that hasn't stopped me from forming my own opinions through personal experience with Aggies, who as a group can be more than slightly obnoxious, but perfectly lovely as individuals. I believe it's a combination of my childhood bias and my own experiences that still make me cheer for just one college team : whoever is playing the Aggies.

*Bush, Perot, and Clinton are in a plane. Perot throws a dollar bill out the window and says "I just made one person happy!" Clinton throws five dollar bills out the window and says "I just made five people happy!" Bush throws Clinton out the window and says "I just made everybody happy!"

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