I am your equal, not subordinate

by Ein Huie

It seems to me that Whitworth students could address the conversation of diversity in a different way; by teaching rather than criticizing and listening rather than being defensive. Although we say we want equality for all races and we want gender inequality to go away and everyone of all backgrounds to be at peace with each other, conversations about diversity can often deter certain people from standing up for equality. For the purpose of this article, I want to be clear that my definition of diversity encompasses race, gender, sexuality, socio-economic status and political status and not just one of these five characteristics of identity.

I am a straight, white, middle-class male. I was raised in the liberal-leaning city of Seattle in a nuclear home with two parents, a brother and a dog. With that identity one might argue that I don’t have the right to write this article, but my identity only adds to the point I am trying to express throughout this article.

Growing up, I did not have many friends from diverse backgrounds and unconsciously surrounded myself with people like me. As I entered public high school, I realized that issues of diversity were the popular topics of conversation and yet also the most debated and emotionally charged conversations. Diversity has come to be the topic that we need to talk about and yet nobody likes to for fear of being on the wrong side or feeling shut down.  Seeing as I knew very little about people different than me, I would often use the wrong terminology or make some ignorant comment about someone’s culture or sexuality. Sometimes it was received well, sometimes I was criticized for it.

Hearing “You can’t say that” and “You wouldn’t get it” or “You wouldn’t understand”, in my opinion, is not a proper response to an ignorant comment on diversity. If I do not know the correct terminology, please teach me. People who attempt to converse about race, sexuality or politics and are deemed as  ignorant, stupid, or not caring about cultural differences should have no reason to want to learn more. If our goal in this culture is to seek equality for all people, and I make a mistake because I don’t know any better, don’t criticize me, teach me. I want to learn.

This brings up another issue that I see as pertinent to this article. Just because someone is not actively seeking out information about how to converse on topics they cannot relate to does not mean they don’t want to learn. Someone who has the ability to relate to race issues or issues of sex is inherently more likely to fight for those rights because it directly affects them and they can relate to it. That does not mean that everyone else doesn’t want the same thing. Holding a bias against a straight, white person for not constantly advocating for human rights does not inherently mean that they are not interested. Don’t count them out because they cannot relate. The straight, white man that accidently makes a mistake in their terminology should not be met with criticism or “expected to say something as ignorant as that”; we need a teaching mentality.

As a generation that voices our opinions and vocally stands up for what we believe in, it is of my opinion that we need to teach more and criticize others less. An African-American person cannot change the fact that they are African-American. A gay person cannot change the fact that they are gay. And a person who grew up upper-class or in a nuclear family cannot change their socio-economic status or family life. If these people constantly hear “You wouldn’t understand”, can you really expect them to want to? Who else is going to teach them besides those who can understand and have the diverse backgrounds to relate?

I believe this goes both ways. At the end of the day, no matter what combination of diverse characteristics make up a person’s identity, there will be a time where each person will be on both sides of the conversation, those being taught and those doing the teaching. As someone who is a straight, white, middle-class male, I have my own culture that defines me too. I have parts of me that many in my diverse in-group can relate to and if we converse with those that are different than us, such as international students or immigrants, as if they will never understand because they can’t relate then we are doing them more harm than good. Using my example of an immigrant, if they were to ask me about something they didn’t understand in American culture and I told them “You just wouldn’t understand, you’re not from here”, I would give them no reason to want to learn or even stay in America and thus create a hierarchy that doesn’t treat them as equal to me. We need to focus more on teaching and worry less about changing others or giving up on someone before we try to teach them.

As a university that seeks a holistic education of mind and heart and aims to “Love God, Follow Christ, and Serve Humanity” Whitworth students need to serve humanity by teaching each other. Listen to someone’s story and put aside the biases that are  based on someone else’s identity. Ask questions and if they make a mistake or say something out of ignorance, try no to tell them that they won’t understand, instead, teach them. We can all agree that we want equality in our society so let’s start by treating each other like equals and open our hearts to teaching and learning.

Contact Ein Huie at dhuie19@my.whitworth.edu

3 Replies to “I am your equal, not subordinate”

  1. Grant,

    I am a proud middle ground political science major. I did not vote for Donald Trump but I respect you for utilizing your civic right to vote. I also love this country but I understand that this land is full of hurt marginalized oppressed people who’s voices are not being listened to despite their efforts to be heard. I understand that you do not feel comfortable at Whitworth as a white male conservative, however the feeling that you are experiencing now is SLIGHTLY reminiscent of the hostile attitudes racial minorities have experienced for centuries. As a fellow white person, I am also proud of where I come from. I do not apologize for my whiteness, and I am not asking you do so either. However, I am also very aware of my white privilege. This means that instead of feeling attacked by those who do not share the same political view, I use my privilege to uplift those whom the system does not cater to. THAT is what people are asking white people to do. Some of these people are (but are not limited to): DREAMers, other racial minorities, women, members the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities.

    Given that we both go to the same school, I can relate to some of what you said. This school does have faculty and leadership that possess strong views regarding their politics and, “supposedly relishes in diversity”. You are entitled to your opinion and no one is denying you that. However, if you do choose to voice your opinion in class, people also have the right to disagree. Furthermore, if you choose to be silent in class and complain under your breath about people who disagree with you that is also your choice. America created a polarized world for itself, and the sooner people understand that the only way to get rid of that is by dismantling the biased system our country was founded on so every one is truly equal, the better.

    Moving onward, I am glad that you feel like you have experienced what it feels like to be a minority. Given this, I hope that you can relate to those who are actual minorities not only within the pinecone curtain, but across the country. Trump won. The administration YOU supported is in power. Also, the US congress currently has a Republican majority. Although I personally perceive Whitworth to be rather conservative institutionally, given them cutting ties with Planned Parenthood, and refusal to make Whitworth a sanctuary campus, the conservatives have the most voice in the larger scheme of things.

    Grant, I understand that justice is defined differently by everyone, and as I said before….you are entitled to your opinion. However, as a fellow Christian I believe that when Jesus said in , Matthew 22:37-39, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?[37] Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.[38] This is the first and great commandment.[39] And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. ..” I believe he was talking about those less privileged, such as DACA recipients who are just as American as you and I are, and unarmed high school students who would rather pursue their education without fear that anyone could easily buy a firearm and shoot them. Justice for these people, is what I believe our faith supports.

    In conclusion, our country was made free by protesting, the colonies separating from the British was an act of protest. Activists like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton used nonviolent protests, like walk outs to elevate their voice. You do not have to agree with what they stand for, but please respect it. Just as they should respect you for using your voice in class, that is if you choose to do so. I know you do not have to listen to me. As you mentioned above, you are well able to stay within your bubble of conservative friends until you graduate. However, as one student to another, if you choose to actively engage in conversations with people who do not share the same view as you, that is one step closer to coexisting in a politically polarized nation.

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