I was handed a survey in one of my morning classes. Its title was “How Comfortable Am I?” and it asked the survey-taker about how comfortable they would be in social situations with supposedly differing people; people such as math tutors or exotic dancers.
More than anything I was confused– the survey was completely unrelated to the subject matter of the class. What was even stranger was that my teacher insisted we talk about our answers and spend the period discussing. Most students did not hold back.
Question 15 on the survey read as follows: “The young man sitting next to you on the airplane is Arab.” The question left my teacher’s mouth and I thought for a fact that everyone would be on the same page. However, when I heard a loud voice say “not if it was right after 9/11” followed by “you can never be too sure” from another, my heart dropped into my stomach. Question 19 read: “The woman sitting next to you on a plane weighs 250 lbs.” This was followed by another loud response: “I don’t wanna sit next to a fat girl.” Question 36: “One of your group presentation members has a speech impediment.” Once again, I felt sick: “I’ll just be the one that does the talking.”
My classmates’ responses were so shocking and disgusting that I would laugh out loud. I constantly looked around the room to see if I could find just one person who was having a similar reaction to mine and was terrified to find out that I was alone– I felt trapped. I had the urge to do something and since my classmates weren’t being reprimanded for sharing such strong “opinions,” I assumed there would be no issue with me sharing mine.
Question 18 was simple: “Your new roommate is gay.” However, this question caused an uproar from the class; many said that they wouldn’t be comfortable with it because they wouldn’t want to be perceived as gay themselves. This is when I finally worked up the courage to speak out: “It’s unfortunate that people are scared of being seen as gay as if it’s a bad thing to be perceived as.” My teacher stopped me and informed me that this was supposed to be an opportunity to share our own opinion and not to shoot anybody down. Clearly, my teacher has an issue with any other side of the argument. Mind you, moments later, this same teacher had no issue mentioning that the victims involved in the “#MeToo” movement were “naive” to “fall for” the manipulations of Harvey Weinstein.
So how comfortable am I? I’m not comfortable at all. In fact, I’m far from it. However, I have been able to find comfort in what I believe is the root of the problem; ACPS has preached about its diversity since before some of us were even a thought and I, along with many others, have been convinced that this diversity makes us more accepting.
This leads me to my question: are we using the privilege of having diversity for good? Our mixing-pot student body is made to look like a community from the outside, however, it’s clear as day that there are plenty of students who aren’t educated on cultures and identities outside of their own. If you think about it, ACPS will only address our diversity when persuading onlookers that this is a wholesome environment. So of course, the difficulties we face today have been hidden in the shadows.
It’s easy to notice the edging tensions in the T.C. hallways or walk into the the lunchroom and see divisions. It’s easy to realize that there are places where you’re welcome and places that you’re not. It’s time for a change; it’s time for everyone to pay attention and accept who the Titans really are.