In the circus camp we call college, liberal political stances are like “innie” belly buttons. Most people have them, and upon finding an “outie,” the first reaction is to poke it. Often, my entire class agrees on a view and one kid alludes to potentially disagreeing and gets clobbered with words like “hateful,” “small-minded” and “ignorant.”
I don’t think we should excuse hateful, small-minded and ignorant comments and questions in class. Oppression deserves to be clobbered. But someone being sexually reserved or fiscally conservative, or dare I say, a republican, does not give us the right to assume we know everything about their values, ethics and story. We miss out on learning moments and friendship when we define and write off humans in one word.
For me, this notion applies beyond politics. We all see someone doing, wearing or saying something and quickly determine this person’s relevance to our lives. I don’t think we should turn a blind eye to sexism, racism, or queerphobia, but we should make a point to pause before we judge.
Writing someone off based on their shoes, religion, music taste or exercise plan conflicts with the reason we went to college—to learn. In debate, we grow; in sharing, we strengthen; and, in seeing more in people, we see more in ourselves. Because there are possibly more letters in “Occidental” than there are students on campus, it is easy to think we know everyone. If we can actively see people as the complex creatures they are, we can stop defining them by simple labels like “stoner,” “jock,” “slore” or “prep.” Despite the influx of basic tees, this isn’t Brandy Melville, and we need to stop boxing people into one-size-fits-all roles.
We don’t live in a world of black and white. We are all walking shades of grey, sans the nipple clamps (or with them, whatever you’re into.) And one small part of a human being—say, the “I’m gay” part or the “I’m a republican” part or the “I’m a gay republican” part—cannot be used to project the whole.
There are conservative gay people that club baby seals and leave water running when they brush their teeth just as there are educated, open-minded republicans that boycott factory farms. There are hippies with iPhones, business people with YOLO tattoos, feminist nuns, stressed out yoga teachers, straightedge frat boys, abstinent sex-ed teachers and sexist transgender people.
Human life does not function in polarities, and the fact that we attend a “liberal” and “progressive” college does not mean we are a homogeneous group of “innie” belly buttons. If you take a look, you’ll see our campus is made of tummies of all shapes and sizes and belly buttons that follow.
Is there anything better than a Donut Friend vegan donut to show that something can be different than expected and still amazing? If there can be enjoyable meals without dairy products, surely there can be a jock with a collection of Madonna records or a CTSJ major with a great barbeque dry rub. We need to stop drawing maps of strangers before we explore them for ourselves. There’s a pack of gym rats smoking cigarettes and anti-establishment punk kids matching all their friends telling us that no human can be summed up in one word. In the words of
“The Breakfast Club,” “each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.” As Occidental students, we need to abide by this mindset and recognize that all people are more than what they appear to be at a glance.
I’m certainly not someone who always thinks big picture and I have yet to devise a foolproof plan on how to make everyone see everyone holistically. Taking down judgments requires us to constantly say, “they look like someone I would hate, but who knows, they could not completely suck.” In the mean time, I’m going to sit in my off campus house, look for cute one-piece bathing suits and binge watch Kyle XY, the show about the kid with no belly button at all.