The Paradigm of War in high school

Luis Toro, Guest Writer

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The paradigm of war is a theory created by Nelson Maldonado Torres. The paradigm of war, as Torres explains, started in 1492 when Columbus came to the Americas and began his genocide of the Native people. This is the war that caused the control of truth and normalization through the systematic genocide of the native people through the reservation on broken land, broken treaties  and an education system beating their native tongue out creating a systematic method of control.

This is how it began, how it became constant within daily life, which formed the nexus of power-oriented domination ultimately allowing for white people to monopolize and control our understandings of “truth” and “normality.” Anything that does not fit within these definitions is deemed deviant.  The essential concept that Torres is getting at is that since white people created this paradigm, and to this day can control our notions of truth, they instinctively enact war on all things they deem “different,” “strange” or “weird.”

What connects modern day education with the paradigm of war is the notion of the right answer. I see this in everyday life within ETHS with the ways that teachers continue to teach normative ways of thinking.  For example, when white students are wrong or have a different way of thinking, then they are often seen as people who are thinking outside of the box; that they are “smart” and that they have “bright futures.” However, if a student of color thought outside of the norm, they may  be seen as not “smart enough” or that something is “wrong” with them.

“When it comes to AP classes, our school talks about inclusivity, but there are only a few black students in the class. They are excluded through making them feel ashamed for how smart they or for not doing the homework,” senior Dominick Mcintosh says.

I’ve seen certain teachers who aren’t receptive when some students of color don’t complete homework because the content itself is rooted in whiteness. This could result in the student not entirely finished a course load or withdrawing from the class itself. The class is designed to reject their bodies and alienate them.

This  leads students of color to the conclusion that they should change something fundamental about themselves; that they must give up their identity as critical thinkers and give into the normativity for survivability within a society that is in constant war against their being. Even when it looks like you have obtained that higher education, there is still a target for your being to be controlled under the system of war.

These subtle instances are a way of war that allows for oppressors to control POC and rid them of their sense of agency. Consequently, I and other students of color have felt self-conscious about our intelligence because often, our intelligence does not necessarily align with what white people see as “intelligent” so we are then told we are “dumb.”

In many history classes, this selective teaching of control is evident when  teachers neglect to include units on native history and those specific peoples who lived on the land before colonization occurred. Blackness is also controlled in history class because when teachers don’t talk about the complexities of black history and instead, teach an oversimplified version of it, so it can be more simple, normative black narratives that can be  accepted by white folks.

“[Teachers] were trying to make things more acceptable to white [people]. They wanted us to have a more streamlined basis of blackness and not be a fluid based sense of self,” senior Michaela Williams says.

At ETHS, I have experienced adults telling me that I am not smart enough for the classes that I want to be in or that my effort is lacking in classes so I should just not continue on with the class. They tell me that I should change so that I do not get left behind. In other academic activities that I have done, debate for instance, my ideas have been marked as dangerous. Talking about my identity, la cultura; how me, as a person of color is affected within this space that sees me and many others as unimportant, how my suffering and losing my sense of self, how I don’t feel safe or accepted, alone, within a white dominated space that it is only a part of the “game” of debate.

Expressing unfounded doubt in POC is one of the warlike tactics used to keep me and others out of these spaces.When we enter, we are made to feel worse than we would ever had before. Thus, we remain questioning our intelligence, identity and continue to think that there is no hope, that we are going to continue as deviants and that this is our place within the paradigm of war.