I was washing a dish while my coffee was brewing, and the [72-year-old gay white] man I live with was bemoaning the myriad red Solo cups that had been left on the sidewalk in front of our house following a party that our [Mexican] neighbors had thrown (side note: these neighbors are, truly, unbelievably dismissive and obnoxious. They're the ones on whom I've had to call the cops multiple times after repeated attempts to get them to shut their parties down at, for example, 2am on a Tuesday). We spoke of something pertaining to people's nonchalance when it comes to littering, at which point he shrugged and said, "Well, it's cultural."
I put my dish down, my espresso machine continued to steam, I picked up the towel, began to dry my hands and explained:
"No. It's not cultural. It's an endemic failure on the part of our educational system in this country. At a predominantly white, affluent school, children will be taught how litter adversely affects the water cycle, the animals in the oceans, and, inevitably, us. However, at a predominantly Hispanic or black* school in an impoverished area, the lack of funding and resources mean that the teachers can barely cover the required material to get the kids into the next grade, let alone something like waste management or storm water pollution. As awful an experience as I had with my environmental protection school show, I have been to nearly every elementary school campus in LA County, and I consistently observed that not even the teachers in poorer schools knew the material we would cover about litter and pollution, whereas at nearly every affluent charter school, the student body was predominantly white and/or Jewish and, with shocking frequency, they had not only separate bins for trash, recycling, and compost, but on-campus organic vegetable gardens and student-run environmental protection groups.
"It's not cultural. Mexicans are very clean people. It's economic oppression and systematic social segregation by means of inherited ignorance."
He said, "Oh."
Then I had my coffee.
P.S. That said, I have also been informed this morning that I am "everything that's wrong with the world" by an Instagram troll after I commented my displeasure regarding a derisive video — taken and posted without consent – which featured a teenage boy misusing a BOB Training Dummy — posted by a martial arts account I generally enjoy, so what do I know? (The video has since been removed.)
A. Help me out here, please. When do we capitalize "White" and "Black?" Microsoft Word is adamant about "Latino," "Hispanic," "Asian," and others, but... help.
B. The "What Do I Call You?" conversation about people who are generically from Spain, Central and South America, and/or Mexico, and who the asker wishes to lump together with the others, is one we can have at another time.