No one enjoys having awkward conversations. From the “sex talk” we had with our parents when we were kids to talking about sexual assault, rape, racism, diversity, drugs, etc. Our society in general hates having those conversations. They tend to bring up feelings of discomfort and unease, sometimes almost making you want to throw up.
In order to avoid those feelings, we avoid those conversations. This works for a small while, but when incidents of racism, xenophobia, sexual violence of any kind or drug use occur, it creates a problem. Those topics can be so foreign to us that we can’t bring ourselves to believe those incidents actually happened, especially when it happens close to home. So we deny them in order to maintain our world view.
Society does this and students at BYU-Idaho do as well. It’s the way things are. In our culture we avoid talking about difficult topics. It’s past time we change that.
We of the Scroll editorial board believe it is necessary to have those hard conversations with each other in order to move society forward.
To people who live outside of Utah and Idaho, these states are affectionally called the “Mormon Bubble.” Some people within the “bubble” believe nothing bad ever happens here. For example, racism doesn’t exist. Domestic violence isn’t a problem, and “all is well in Zion.”
They’re wrong. They’re unaware of what goes on. According to Rexburg police, the second most frequent call in Rexburg is for domestic violence. The first is drug abuse.
Outside of Rexburg, but still within the “bubble,” Utah has a huge problem with opioid addictions. Utah is seventh in the nation with drug overdoses. In Idaho, there are at least 12 hate groups according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. While Utah and Idaho may appear cleaner than the rest of the world, they’re far from perfect.
A common phrase uttered on campus is, “That would never happen here.” In their minds, if it doesn’t happen to them, then it doesn’t happen at all. Some men on this campus don’t have to worry about being catcalled while walking on the sidewalks while girls on this campus do.
If a minority gets to their apartment and tells their roommates they were called an illegal, the n-word, or another ethnic insult, some roommates would believe them and others wouldn’t. To them, that could never really happen here, and, if it did, it doesn’t matter because it didn’t happen to them so it’s not a big deal.
We live in such a diverse country where no two people will ever have the same experience. Different backgrounds means different struggles. Just because you or anyone near you has never struggled with a certain issue doesn’t mean others haven’t.
Life is an endless cycle of learning. Just because someone spent two years outside of the states doesn’t mean that they’re cultured. We can always learn more about the struggles of others outside of our comfort zone.
If we see something wrong, we should step up and speak out against it. If we hear an inappropriate joke or comment toward women or hear a racist statement made by your roommate, step up, and speak out against it. Any decent person should be uncomfortable hearing sexist and racist comments, and they should speak out in order to make things better. They should let others know that sexism, racism and any other form of inappropriate conduct is not welcomed here.
Having that conversation will undoubtedly be uncomfortable, but it is necessary. Allowing people to demean others, either verbally or physically, and not saying anything is complicit to their wrongdoing. Silence enables these individuals to continue their behavior.
Speaking up works. You’ll probably be insulted — I know I have — but you can live with yourself. And in the process you may change some hearts.
That’s what happened with Derek Black. According to NPR, Black is the son of one of the grand wizards of the KKK. He created a companion website for Stormfront, a white nationalist website that neo-Nazis love to visit. Black grew up surrounded by racists beliefs and never had them challenged, until he went to college.
In college, people opened Black‘s eyes to how wrong he was. People stepped up, told him his beliefs were disgusting and weren’t going to let his comments pass. They opened their doors to him and talked with him explaining why white nationalist ideology was wrong. They were kind, yet firm, and over time Black opened his eyes to how wrong his beliefs were.
We should do the same. We need to step up, and change what is going on around us. That doesn’t mean we should go around changing every belief we disagree with. People have different views due to their personal experiences. Some people grew up Republican and some grew up Democrat. That doesn’t mean Democrats and Republicans can’t be friends.
Instead of believing that all Republicans are racists and all Democrats are atheist, liberal tree huggers, all sides should get together and talk. Minds may not change during those discussions, but eyes will be opened. People will be able to understand each other more and move forward in life with that greater understanding.
The only way we can move forward as a country is by having hard conversations. As members of a worldwide, diverse community, we need to start those conversations.