In my Communication Studies major, among my friends, in politics and in life, prejudice is a prevalent, important issue in 2015 society. The fact that we still haven’t solved these problems — that these groups we’ve stereotyped, categorized and divided are still separate and discriminated against — is rather disgusting to me. But since we’re still living with it, it’s something we need to talk about, and something we need to start thinking about in the context of having a “civilized and advanced” society. We’ve gone to the moon. We’re building electric cars, we have supercomputers in our pockets and soon we’re going to provide internet access to every single person on the planet. Yet the struggle for equality and the fact that we actually ask people what race they are in job applications — as if it matters, and as if race is anything more than a human construct — is a problem with a solution that still eludes us.
What would I know about this? I’m a straight, white guy from Fort Collins, the whitest white city in the whole darn country. My honest answer is that I don’t know much at all in regards to personal experience. I suppose I can complain that there are scholarships exclusively for women and not many for men, or that a company might choose a person of color over myself as a new hire to prove that they aren’t racist. However, these are trivial complaints compared to what happens to people who aren’t straight, white and male. Treatment in court, treatment by cops and discriminatory pay aren’t things I have to deal with.
The problem for me is getting engaged in the conversation. Who am I to make a judgment call on feminism when I’m not the one being discriminated against? Who am I to discuss what we should do about police brutality when it’s not me who’s going to be brutalized? Who am I to try and figure out the baffling problem that some people honestly believe gay people should not be allowed to get married like everyone else?
In some ways, I’m not the one to make these calls, but it’s also essential that those who are not discriminated against contribute to the conversation. In my Rhetoric in Western Thought class, when the topic of feminism came up, plenty of girls immediately spoke up; not a single guy raised their hand, not even me. I won’t deny my nervousness that my opinion would be shut down, that no matter what I said it would be heavily scrutinized because I know nothing about the problem.
What I think needs to happen is to make sure this lopsided balance of power is flagrantly ignored and eliminated. Everyone has a voice; all of us are people; and really, we have more commonalities than differences. If we’re going to discuss equality, we need to discuss it equally and put our money where our mouths are. If you’ve been discriminated against, you need to speak out. If you have not been, you need to listen, and help and understand, rather than pretending the problem isn’t there. If anyone has an opinion, they deserve to be heard. People are people, not white, black, male, female, straight or gay. We’ve been categorized out of fear of the unknown, and the different and the new that breaks from tradition, stereotyped because of actions we probably took because we were discriminated against in the first place, and divided by our differences rather than being united by them.
My fellow college students, our generation is about to take up the reins and start running this crazy thing we call society. Let’s stop putting it off and become the generation that makes discrimination a thing of the past, whether you’ve faced discrimination in your life or not.
Collegian Columnist Dan Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @danriceman.