By Billy Huntsman
Sometimes I think this university is really progressive and liberal. And then I’m pulled right back into reality.
Such is what happened to me when I saw this video. It’s of an NMSU freshman getting ‘initiated’ into the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences.
The initiation, no doubt contrived to be in keeping with the college’s motif, involves imprinting a cow brand dipped in white paint on the student’s shirt-covered shoulder.
While the College of ACES surely thought this clever and original, to viewers with common sense it’s strange, discomforting, and perhaps even offensive.
Maybe the college can’t be too much to blame. After all, the History Department is in a different college, in a different part of campus.
Had anyone in ACES ever taken a history class, they might have realized how horribly inappropriate (and perversely entertaining) this ‘branding’ video is.
Jews in the concentration camps during World War II were branded with numbers. Black slaves were branded with the imprints of their plantations, as have Chinese, Mexicans, Native Americans, any race that has ever been owned by another.
This knowledge makes the video even more unsettling, as the student being branded appears to be Hispanic, while the brander looks like someone out of Deadwood.
There’s a long, terrible history to human branding, but such knowledge is apparently lost on the brander, the brandee, as well as on the audience. Everyone seems to think it’s perfectly normal. Smiles and applause abound. Their thinking must have been, “It’s just paint.”
But for me, the video is a little too Roots–y for comfort.
I’ve often heard there’s no room for the humanities, such as history, in the present’s knowledge bank. Do you agree?