I have spent my life in a WASP world. I am surrounded, almost entirely, by people with pale and pasty skin, people who make middle-class salaries, drive middle-class cars, have to endure the occasional financial panic, and who get up on Sunday mornings, and attend a nice Protestant church, in a nice, Protestant town. And, growing up in the WASPish world of Fort Collins, where there exists very little variation from the established paradigm, it is completely understandable why the diversity movement is approached with such intentionality on our campus.
We are, after all, a diverse people. A people of a hundred thousand talents, of thoughts, of beliefs and of values. And, as a teacher in preparation, it is one of my goals to ensure that the students in my classroom, coming from whatever background they do, will feel safe and encouraged in their pursuits.
There exists, however, a certain tension within the movement, most prevalently seen among those who promote it so vocally. Recently, I was in a class that was being shown a slide presentation on how to construct academic settings in which people from diverse backgrounds will feel safe and accepted. The presentation was eloquently and excellently delivered, and gave me much to think about. However, during the class discussion, I was outed as a Republican, and, in the middle of the presentation on diversity, was singled out several times by the speaker because of my political and social beliefs.
I am still attending the class, of course. I don’t feel that my opinions are necessarily unrespected by the rest of the class, and, with the exception of the fact that I just can’t get to the class on time, I actually look forward to going. But the diversity and acceptance presentation just served to reiterate in my mind the tension that exists in the movement towards a broadly accepting society. In actuality, the diversity movement does not serve to accept all beliefs or backgrounds. It serves to instead turn its back on those who have typically been perceived as the privileged.
And, of course, that’s the whole point. I am sure that the person in front of the slide projector would say that because I grew up a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, I don’t need acceptance at all. Look around me. I am surrounded by a hundred thousand people exactly like me, and the movement is there to protect those who find themselves outside of the great realm of acceptance.
But, in order to truly promote diversity, my opinion should be just as acceptable, and considered just as valid as anyone else’s. I shouldn’t have to sit through education classes where both professors and students bash the politically conservative, simply because we come from a paradigm that has typically favored the “old white dead guys.” I can understand how people who find themselves typically disenfranchised feel, because I am starting to feel a little disenfranchised too.
The pendulum swings, back and forth, back and forth. And, of course, I sound closed- minded. But when it all comes down to it, we are all of us closed-minded. Liberals would be no more thrilled about the Student Funding Board considering the granting of $25,000 to have Dr. Laura Schlessinger speak on campus than social and political conservatives would be with the proposal of Ellen Degeneres. Regardless of how much we speak on accepting what others think, we are all completely comfortable with the way we think.
And regardless of how many times people say that all opinions are valid, that’s not actually true either, because the relativist can accept anyone but the proponent of absolute truth.
And so, I will sit in my predominantly white world, desperately sorry for the grievances of the past, but also truly convinced that to serve the disenfranchised by disenfranchising another group, privileged or not, is to render the record of human experience impotent. We are, all of us, nasty, brutish and short.
Sarah Laribee is a second bachelor’s student in the English Education program.