The Loyalty Test

loyalty pledge

Image: The Federalist

“I see you received excellent marks on your overall training evaluation, Mr. Collins.”

“Yes Ma’am. Thank you.” Brad Collins was standing in front of his section chief’s desk on what he hoped was his first official day on the job. She had a reputation for being strict and pulling no punches, so needless to say, he was a bit nervous. But he needed this job. Actually, he’d wanted this job ever since he was a little kid. Being here was the culmination of a 20-year-long dream. Now if only the dream would come true.

“You can address me as ‘Ms. Nash’ or ‘Chief Nash,’ Mr. Collins.” Nash’s expression was stern as she stared at him through the thick lenses of her glasses. It was rumored that her expression almost never changed, at least during work hours.

“Yes, Ms. Nash.” He stood ramrod straight in front of her desk as she carefully turned the pages in his final evaluation report.

“You signed your loyalty statement this morning, I see.” Nash didn’t bother to look up when she addressed him.

“Yes, Ma…Yes, Ms. Nash.” The loyalty test was one of the most challenging examinations to pass, not because of any physical or intellectual difficulty, but because it was so hard for most people to purge all possible tendencies toward disloyalty. Duffy, Brad’s first instructor, told him that most applicants were denied employment because of this, even if they passed all of the other exams.

Nash murmured to herself as she went through the checklist. “Colorblind response, good. Rugged individual response…good. Hmmm.”

Had she found something? Brad tried to be so careful as he answered each of the twenty-eight items contained in the loyalty statement. He’d even tutored with Duffy after hours to make sure his responses would be text-book perfect, which is exactly what the chief expected.

Nash was silent for a moment. Brad thought he could hear himself sweat.

“Your reply to the question of penitence is good, but your psych eval in this area indicates a slightly elevated incidence of white guilt.” She looked up from the report and stared straight at Brad, her lenses artificially magnifying her eyes. “Do you have anything to say about this?”

Oh great. She was comparing his responses to his psych eval. Brad didn’t think of that. “Ms. Nash, I don’t believe I harbor undue feelings of white guilt that are unattached to actions against racism. The test results may indicate residual feelings I previously held of needing to do more in the area of anti-racist activity. I think overcoming those issues is one of the reasons I’d be a good match for this position.”

“Hmmm.” Nash returned to looking at the report seemingly unimpressed. “I see.”

Brad was rubbing his moist palms together behind his back. Nash didn’t say anything else for several seconds.

“White wash response is classic. Well done.” She still sounded like she was talking to herself.

“Thank you, Ms. Nash.” She didn’t look up when he spoke.

“No false identification with people of color, I see. Excellent”. Even though she seemed to be praising Brad, she sounded like she was merely making perfunctory remarks, saving her energy for the criticisms she was about to deliver.

“Now this is interesting.” Brad hoped it wasn’t ‘interesting’ as in ‘bad’.

“You state that several years ago, you felt ‘stuck’ in advancing in anti-racist activities and that you asked assistance from a white school teacher, field and track coach specifically.”

“Yes, Ms. Nash. That’s right.” What trap was she about to catch him in?

“Why didn’t you seek assistance from a person of color, Mr. Collins?” She looked up from the report again, paralyzing him with her eyes, her expression, her cool, calculating presentation.

“I had briefly considered consulting a person of color. My math teacher Ms. Johnson might have been helpful…” In mid-sentence, Brad realized what Nash was doing and then his response became readily apparent. “…but my understanding is that most people of color don’t have the time or energy to continually educate white anti-racists. Also, at that age, I hadn’t established myself as sufficiently trustworthy as an ally to impose on a person of color.”

Nash’s expression and posture was unchanged but as Brad kept talking, he knew he was on the right track. “Instead, I sought out a white mentor, who I knew was more advanced in white anti-racism, to guide me through my roadblock.”

Brad tried to suppress a smile of satisfaction. She might interpret it as white arrogance which would undo everything he had just said.

“Very well.” Nash adjusted her glasses and kept reading through the final few pages in front of her.

Nearly a minute passed as Brad thought (hoped) Nash was ticking off the last of the twenty-eight items, satisfied he had responded to them adequately and that his white anti-racism work was sufficient to make him a loyal ally of people of color such as herself.

Without a word, Nash carefully closed the report and placed it directly in front of her on the desk. She rose from her seat and turned away from Brad, walking toward the window behind her which, for the entire interview, had been shielded behind heavy curtains.

Brad blinked momentarily as Nash opened the curtains, letting sunlight flood into the room. Then she returned to her desk, opened the center drawer, took out two items and placed them on the desk on top of his report.

Brad tried not to look at her desktop but it was hard to ignore what was sitting there. Before he could let temptation pull his gaze downward, Chief Nash extended her right hand to him over her desk.

NYPD

Image: Gotham Gazette

“Congratulations, Officer Collins. You have passed your last test, the anti-racist test, very well.”

Brad shook her hand a little too vigorously. “Thank you, Chief. It will be an honor to serve.”

Releasing Brad’s hand, Chief Nash handed the newly-minted police officer his badge and his sidearm saying, “Welcome to the New York City Police Department.”

Given yesterday’s blog post on social justice and racism, I thought it appropriate to write an “alternate future” short story about implementing white anti-racism standards into police force training, causing them to be the “make or break” measure by which a person was accepted or rejected as a police officer.

I used Jona Olsson’s article Detour-Spotting for white anti-racists as the guide for Collins’ “final exam,” the list of “28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors” I had originally found at Odin’s B-Log.

It can be one thing to read such lists and consider how or if to apply them to our individual lives, but what happens when you make them the official criteria for getting a job as a police officer or any other form of employment? What happens if they become part of a loyalty statement of a white officer to officers and superiors of color as well as people of color generally in the population you are trained to serve? What would happen if they became the loyalty statement required to join the military? What would happen if they became law and applied to all American citizens, the breaking of any of these attitudes punishable by fine or imprisonment?

Just a few thoughts to consider. Would implementing such a law make our world a utopia or dystopia?

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14 thoughts on “The Loyalty Test

  1. So your main reactions are a feeling you are being told to feel guilty, and then to fear that people are going to be kept from jobs based on a list you read? That’s a quick jump, and sort of a skip of conversation.

    There was a man with a major position on CNN who got fired for an inappropriate comment about Jews some years ago. Should we have worried about utopia vs. dystopia over that then (or now)?

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    • The point of science fiction (one of them anyway) is to take trends in the present and project them into the future to see how they’ll look. If the list of 28 became rules or even laws, that is, mandatory directives by the system, what would it mean for human beings? How would it shape society, the balance of power and “privilege,” and would it indeed promote “equality?” Interesting questions.

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  2. http://www.adweek.com/tvnewser/karl-penhaul-dropped-by-cnn-after-tweets-calling-donald-trump-racist-idiot/266019

    http://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2015/09/25/donald-trump-randi-kaye-ac-dnt.cnn

    Here’s (above) some more recent activity with CNN.

    And Trump has talked about taking away our free speech rights, because he says the media lies.

    I know you’re not a fan of Trump, so I’m not trying to pin that on you. But I’ve noticed the most volatile people at rallies and demonstrations have internalized hatred of media and congress and other things that sound like quotes from the right wing. But it’s okay if it’s the right wing, bad if black. Donald Trump even had a dismissive thing to say about police at a point in the primary season that he had to deal with them in real life rather than as a publicity stunt: “Yeah, the police; how often are they right?”

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  3. The father of my children made a promise to our youngest son that our son would get my car based on the concurrent promise that I would be getting a new car his father would buy for me. None of this was my idea. When a new car was bought, it wasn’t to be my car. But I was still expected by my son’s father to hand over my car. I said I wouldn’t and that he should just help our son get a used car (to follow through). Then I was compared to a socialist, because, I was accused, of my thinking he “should help everyone.”

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  4. @Marleen: Not sure what the stuff about Trump or the issue of the cars has to do with my short story. All I did was take a set of voluntary self-improvement exercises suggested by Jona Olsson and her training organization, and created a fictional scenario about what might happen if these activities were made mandatory.

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  5. First of all, I would have picked one post or the other (of my two after the first). The one at 8:50 seemed to drop off the planet when I posted. So I stopped thinking about it and posted something else (which, like other postings here, went straight up as posted). I hadn’t seen your 8:28 prior to my 8:50, so there’s that if you want to think of where the 8:50 “would have” theoretically lined up had it gone up… but I won’t go into it.

    The 9:22 has to do with not taking responsibility and blaming others in bizarre ways; for instance, making promises to one’s son and not doing what you said, and then considering another solution for the son to whom you made promises, has nothing to do with socialism — or government of any kind. So, I will go ahead and spell out that it was a ridiculous and evasive thing for him to say. Strangely, creating emotional tactics is something you decried in your previous thread — but you’re going with big scary government now instead of hearing or patience.

    But you have experience in slimy sales. You should go ahead and practice it.

    Let it be a parable that makes no sense. (Matthew 13:13)
    So, conversation-convershmashion.

    Sensational.

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    • @Marleen, it seems you take exception to my treatment of Jona Olsson’s list and that I applied it to a fictional scenario where what was considered voluntary becomes mandatory, thus examining the apparent results.

      Frankly, I question whether Olsson’s proposal and the thought process behind it are sound. I understand you believe they are and that’s good and well. No problem. However, look at this. In the introduction of her list, to set up why she proposes what she does, Olsson tells a story about herself:

      A few years ago a good friend evaluated a white privilege workshop I facilitated. At the end of her comments, she added, “You really should stop hitting your head when you say something you wish you hadn’t.” I immediately countered in my own defense, “I do NOT hit myself.” Righteously, I thought, a good feminist like myself would not commit such an act of internalized sexism, low self-esteem and intolerance for mistakes. I dismissed the whole notion as an aberration in an otherwise astute and thoughtful critique.

      A week later during another workshop I noticed that I hit my forehead, just as I realized I had said something inappropriate. My shock of recognition was quickly assuaged by my thought, “Well, I’m sure that’s the first time I’ve ever done that!”

      The next week, next workshop… You have moved ahead in this scenario, I’m sure. It has taken two years of attention to remove this behavior, I think, from my repertoire. It required passing through several stages. First, I had to become aware that I did hit myself. Then I had to acknowledge that it was a fairly regular behavior that had roots in my attitudes about myself and my mistakes. Next I had to pay intentional attention to it. For a while I was aware just AFTER I hit my head. Later, I was aware AS I was doing it. Eventually, I caught the initiating arm movement and could stop mid-trajectory. I had to deliberately scrutinize my internalized attitudes. Have I stopped this behavior from reasserting itself? In stressful moments, still, I may catch a flicker of movement. Clearly, I have more work to do. (emph mine)

      Now here’s the kicker:

      My head-hitting behavior has its origins in my own internalized sexism, part of the insidious experience as a female and lifelong target of sexism. I was conditioned as female to believe much of the sexist mythology and lies about myself and other women. Part of my over-compensation for the internalized lie that women aren’t as smart as men was /is an absolute in acceptance of my mistakes. As a woman, a target of sexism, I continue to struggle against not just sexism, but against the internalized messages and my own mis-directions and over-compensations. (emph mine)

      I was astonished that this was the only rational explanation Olsson had for her “head hitting behavior.”

      I’ve done that myself on occasion, mildly slapping my forehead when I made (in my opinion) some “bonehead” mistake. I think it’s a fairly common human behavior. So, if Olsson hitting her head represents “messages she internalized as part of the insidious experience as a female and lifelong target of sexism,” what does my forehead hitting behavior indicate? It can’t be the same source for obvious reasons.

      I’m using this to illustrate that, in my opinion, Olsson arrived at her conclusion based on a deeply ingrained personal philosophy adopted from some extreme forms of feminist and politically correct thought rather than objectively looking at such behavior from a wider social and cultural context.

      I’m not putting down feminism, and in fact, I support it as I believe it was originally outlined, the understanding that men and women in our culture should have equal access to resources, including equal pay for the same types of jobs. It’s not that I don’t believe racism and sexism exist, I just think an overly amplified set of rules and regulations have been woven around those basic concepts based on a lot of over-analyzing of information. The result is, in part, a list of 28 separate criteria Olsson and her training organization believe white people should and must continually attend to, some of them appearing quite bizarre (again, in my opinion), in order to eliminate all individual, social, and institutional racism.

      One way to “test” the apparent validity of ideas and concepts is to inject them into fictional scenarios to see what outcomes would be like if abstract and voluntary concepts and behaviors were made mandatory with negative consequences for failure. That’s what science fiction and fantasy does. I understand if you or others take exception to my treatment of that information, but that doesn’t invalidate the “test”.

      The alternative is not to read such material and to stick only to information sources that are deemed emotionally and intellectually “safe,” rather than explore “unsafe” ideas. Science fiction isn’t safe, and I don’t intend to play it safe when I write.

      I’m not trying to hurt anyone, but just like on my “morning meditations” blog, I reserve the right to express my opinions and process my thoughts through blogging as this site’s blog owner.

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  6. I don’t know if I missed that in what you linked to or if it’s in Facebook conversation or form (in which case I wouldn’t have seen it at all because I don’t participate in Facebook… and you know most [it seems to me] Facebook content isn’t available to Facebook non-users). Or I skipped over it and got on to the 28 (which you requested be read)? Okay I’ve gone and looked. I think the hitting the head visual is figurative? Or maybe one example for one person; the author does go on to say people are different. That story unexpectedly sort of drops into the lead up (at a link beyond the one you first gave). That maybe could be communicated better but is discernibly not a total equating of hitting the head for the reasons you surmised except in her own case. I can see how you’d be confused if you thought she was defining bopping the forehead as what you said. But I don’t see how it leads well to your short story.

    It seems to me, if we’re having a conversation and I’m also allowed to say what I think on your site {where you obviously can do whatever you want, yet the appearance of conversation can be frustrating when you complain you‘re not supposed to “ask questions” or do anything but “capitulate” but you don’t seem to know that’s what you’re doing to others at times}, seems that a set of ideas for personal goals that add up to cultural change through awareness are not the same set as enforced with punishment. If a husband likes his idea of buying a car (or maybe wants everyone else he announces it in front of to think he’s great; or wants his wife to be fooled to think he’s being thoughtful), that’s not the same as her demanding that he buy a car under punishment of law. Which is not to say there would never be a scenario — such as with a neglectful husband — for laid out stipulations.

    And actually I think we both agree consequences can make sense. You didn’t like the beauty pageant winner who compared the killer to a martyr — and she got fired, and I’m glad. I didn’t like the guy who wanted to drop a bomb on a group of marchers — and he got fired, and I hope you’re glad.

    The ideas listed are fairly reasonable considerations. There were two or a few that maybe can conflict with each other at times. But setting up a worrisome scene with a black woman like “what if this was our future?” When there are always these scary people in charge judging you, they’re just usually white and men… would you want people imagining a scene with fearful people subservient to Jews or a Jewish woman? It’s not really fair.

    One of my sons recently took various tests to be a police officer. He passed them all, but didn’t want to be an officer any more when he went for the interview style test. These were all white people (and he’s white), but he didn’t want to hang out with rigid, uptight, conformists. He didn’t want to be like them. He didn’t want that to be his life, although they are happy with their work. Am I supposed to resent the chief because the man in your story wanted to do this job all his life since childhood? What’s that black woman doing evaluating him a deciding yes or no?

    Anyway, I guess you need to process your thoughts with “yes” people.

    You do want people to say something.
    You’ve complained about not getting responses, so…

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  7. I will say this. It’s possible for someone to pick up a politically correct script without thinking it through and evaluating if that is what she is really doing. But it’s also true that the anti politically correct police have their own pc.

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  8. @Marleen: All I can say is that I quoted what I read, and I’m not sure how I could have misunderstood Olsson’s meaning. I provided the quotes to illustrate that her interpretation of her “headhitting” seemed to be very narrow and based on a particular philosophy that might not reflect objective reality.

    If that’s true, then the foundation for her list of 28 items may also have some flaws. I’m saying that her point of view is not likely to be the one and only valid point of view for addressing social ills.

    You can say whatever you want (within reason…as you know, I don’t allow direct name calling and profanity, and such) here and we are free to disagree with each other. You are also free to have any opinion of me you choose.

    In Olsson’s defense, I think she’s thought through her actions and the rationale behind them very well. She seems to be very intelligent and compassionate. I just happen to disagree that her platform is the one and only valid platform for performing tikkun olam.

    Anti-politically correct police. Hmmm. I hadn’t considered that, but whatever social media site you visit will likely have a policy regarding comments.

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  9. I don’t know why you keep talking about online policy, like I’m a problem. I have never cussed such that you’ve needed to edit or delete what I’ve written to post. I have no idea what “policy” you think I’m stepping on, except your last line gives me a clue… and thereby we’re back to the problem being me disagreeing with you (while you’ve said disagreeing is okay). You ask for conversation, but I’m not sure what you think conversation is.

    I thought you wanted help understanding. But, like you complain about what people say to your posting on their platform spaces, you mainly want to tell people they’re wrong. I would say this as a matter of online* manners. If you just want to say what you want to say, its better not to make other people your fuel to talk about and better not to portray them as in favor of the way you’ve chosen to twist what they said.

    That’s your word; any principle can be twisted. Sure can, and you’re doing the twisting. Don’t put that on her. I’ve no clue why you’ve decided to feel and spread this pressure that what she’s doing is either the “one and only valid” thing anybody can do or nothing. She didn’t say it’s the only thing; I didn’t either. And you brought it up; that’s why we’re talking about it, why it’s the subject (not the only thing ever).

    Now anti-politically-correct is something in the general culture. As a life-long conservative, it’s something I’ve learned we have to look out for, something about which we need to be careful. (You don’t have to. You decide for yourself if it matters.) Note: Trump is capitalising greatly on being anti-politically-correct. Many love it. You’ve indicated earlier you don’t think he wants to bring the country together.

    * I’m not saying online is known for good manners or that you’re on the worse end of the spectrum.
    In large part, you’ve been on the better. Maybe you can take input from a human who has cared.

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  10. Marleen, I don’t feel I’m putting any unreasonable constraints on your comments, and as far as Olsson goes, I’m rendering an opinion on her points within the context of dystopian fiction. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me.

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  11. I don’t think you’re putting on any constraints concretely.

    I think it’s even more the case no one is putting constraints on you.

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