As I go through college, I become more and more impressed with how closed minded a self proclaimed ‘open minded’ individual tends to be. It seems to be a term used to describe a person who wants to be known as modern, and most likely liberal, rather than applying to individuals that believe in things the open minded person disagrees with. It`s rather ironic how often I run into this dilemma around campus, when many professors will tell you the true purpose of college is cultivating tolerance and self identity as well as work skills. How can the curriculum and culture of such an institution lead to such a great lack of tolerance then?
Oh, sure, hardly anyone I know is racist. That`s probably because in my college, and my end of the Greater Metropolitan D.C. area, there is no single race that makes up more than forty percent of the population. In my high school there wasn`t a race that could claim more than thirty two.
Another likely realm of prejudice tends to be income based, but as I go to a community college, many individuals are there due to either financial prudence or necessity. That being said, I know a few who own or drive Ferraris or live in a home worth 800,000 or more; but I`ve yet to have anyone make fun of my department store clothes (maybe because of the amazing tailoring I`ve done!) or cheap knockoffs of Circa products.
I also haven`t experienced much prejudice against my gender. I am female, and I`m a difficult to define female at that. I don`t wear grey blazers and black pencil skirt to give an authoritative air, and I don`t wear six inch heels or sweats to school. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Have you worn heels higher than two inches? It`s awful, and unnecessary. I happen to be one of the shortest individuals in my family, but I don`t strap on those death traps. (That fact that, despite all that, I am about 5’9” with good posture, has nothing at all to do with it!)
But, somehow, there are some topics that really inspire people to jump down my throat. I happen to be a Christian, and I even believe all of ‘that junk.’ I don`t see why that is grounds to try and describe, at great length, why I am the worst person that has ever lived on this Earth. It`s funny, because my Navajo spiritualist friend and my Muslim friend, who sat right next to me, were somehow exempt. Perhaps the ‘exoticism’ of their beliefs made them worthy as humans despite their belief in a religion. Similarly, the conversation inevitably went to sleep, or rather activities that prevent it. When it was found that I don`t participate in those activities, the determination to prove I`m a jerk was doubled. Apparently choosing not to participate in such things means I`m a chauvinistic jerk, and the fact that I`m a female just means I`m a turncoat that has betrayed all the efforts of the Feminist movement and betrayed females everywhere.
It is probably most surprising that all of this followed a long explanation of why this individual was a very open minded person. Open minded, as long as I follow your standards and rules for life? Open minded, as long as I`m just like you? I can`t help but wonder that, perhaps, my friendship and acceptance following an earlier conversation describing practices and beliefs this girl held that I disagreed with was more open minded than her ranting upon hearing my beliefs.
When she was done describing why I was such an awful individual, I just smiled. All I could think of was the great furor caused when I argued hotly against Santa`s existence in Kindergarten. Both of us were mad as bees about it, because we knew the other was really saying our Mommies were wrong, which goes against everything your identity is based upon as a child. It seems some teens (and freshmen in college) have simply moved the fury towards those who have an alternate opinion, because disagreement can be seen as an outright attack if your identity is limited by other`s perceptions of you. Someday I know she`ll be able to tell the difference between opinions and attacks, and her defensive responses will cool down. Until then, though, I can just smile serenely picturing my Kindergarten experiences as the ranting and raving wash past me.