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August 30, 2010

So, I had some fun at orientation (this is Saturday at the time of writing). How? Well, I was in a diversity discussion. I know, fun, right? They did this thing where they designated four of the corners of the room as groups for strongly agree, strongly disagree, agree, disagree, and the middle was neutral. First question – racism plays a small role in society, exemplified by the election of President Obama. I wasn’t sure about the Obama part of that, but I decided to walk over to the strongly agree corner. To my surprise, in a room full of 200 people, I was the only one that walked over there. The lady gave me the microphone and I explained, quite poorly due to the fact that public speaking isn’t my strong point, that racism has become a nonissue in society, and while there are always going to be the odd racist out there the issue is not as prevalent as it is made out to be.

Second statement – racist or sexist jokes are not okay. Now, here’s the bad part. I go over to the strongly disagree side. And I have a great reason. Once again, I’m the only one in that corner. I get a little worked up trying to think of exactly how to phrase what I’m trying to say, and just as I think I’m going to get the microphone to represent my side the lady moves onto the next question. My response would have been that until we’re able to laugh about these issues in a nonmalicious way, therefore acknowledging our differences in the process, our society can’t move forward in these sort of maters. But, of course, the lady didn’t give me the microphone, and I look racist when in reality I probably have the least racist response.

Third statement – religion shouldn’t be practiced in public. Once again, strongly agree. This time I’m in a group of five. Three of those people subsequently realize that they meant to be in the strongly disagree corner. So now it’s just me and some heavyset blatant atheist (the bad kind). After some small talk about how much religion sucks we decide that I’m going to get the microphone. The lady once again passes me up. It was going to go something along the lines of saying that while I don’t have a problem with religion in private, America is a generally secular state with many different religions and the overall focus of society’s objectives should be on what we have in common, i.e. our currently present, nonreligious beliefs instead of forcing diverse religious beliefs on others and attempts to permeate society with specific religions.

And, the last statement, abortion is the sole right of a woman. After about twenty seconds of deciding I went to neutral. I was pissed that the woman kept skipping over me, although I can understand it as she skipped this time as I was in a large group for once. I just wanted to say that I’m tired of the government wasting time and money on this stupid social issue, I don’t care about whatever decision they make, we just need to make a decision and move past it as a society because we have more important things to worry about.

And that was it. It was a weird couple of minutes, but I managed to get through it and actually represent my beliefs even if not many people agreed with me on the outset. At least everyone that I’ve talked to afterwords acknowledged my viewpoint and doesn’t think I’m crazy or anything.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Aptronym permalink
    August 30, 2010 8:58 pm

    Good for you. I strongly agree (so to speak) with you on the first point. (The others, I’m pretty close.) Regarding racist/sexist jokes, I think that ideally you’d be right, but for the time being we, culturally, have just too much baggage for it to work. The key word here is “nonmalicious”. Referencing a person’s race/culture isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it’s tough to do right and requires a lot more subtlety than most people seem to be capable of. For instance, I take pride in my ancestry because I enjoy the culture in proper doses and am partial to the traits that are associated with it. A joke in celebration of or poking fun at these things in a good-humored way would probably get my approval. But playing into stereotypes that aren’t accurate, are malicious, or generally make people uncomfortable (a tricky thing to call) isn’t a good thing. So basically: people need to lighten up, and people need to understand what’s appropriate or isn’t.

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