I have always done things a little bit differently from my peers. Many people consider me to be rather unusual, for a myriad of reasons (i.e. my non-traditional background.) So it is not surprising that I took a bit of a different perspective on this assignment, too. I planned to do my “Kentucky” Kitchen Table project in Richmond, Virginia, during my trip home for Spring Break. However, as it often happens, my idea did not go according to plan. As it turned out, my mom decided to come for a visit to see my new apartment in town. So, I adapted, as we do, and planned an after-church lunch real Kentucky Kitchen Table at my future in-laws’ home, while my mom was in town.
I realized one of the fundamental requirements for this project was that there had to be people in attendance that I did not know well, so we took this one step further and invited my boyfriend’s step-sister’s boyfriend, whom we were all meeting for the first time. In addition, up to this point, I had only met my boyfriend’s step-sister once, over a year ago. When all was said and done, in attendance were myself, my mom, Jill, my boyfriend, Travis, his dad, Todd, his step-mom, Denise, her daughter, Ashlee, Ashlee’s boyfriend, Josh, Travis’ step-sister in-law, Brittani, and brother, Mitch, and Mitch’s girlfriend, Kristen. Also in attendance was my other boyfriend, Brittani’s son, Ryan, whom I did not count toward the ten-person attendance limit, due to the fact that he is three, and cannot even count up to ten.
I feel it is important to note that, although those who participated in the meal and conversation were all related in some way or another, we were still an incredibly diverse group of individuals, in composition. Racially and ethnically, for instance, I am Mexican, and Filipina, while my mom is where my Hispanic blood comes from. My mom also has a significant amount of Alaska Native in her. Travis, Todd, Mitch, Denise, and Ashlee, on the other hand, are mostly Caucasian, although the boys do have a small amount of Cherokee in them. Josh is biracial–African American and Caucasian. Brittani’s father is Puerto Rican.
Furthermore, Travis has lived in Bowling Green pretty much all of his life. Denise, Todd, Kristen, and Mitch have spent the majority of their time living in different parts of Kentucky. Brittani’s husband, Denise’s son, Shane, was in the Marines, so he was stationed in North Carolina when he met Brittani. My mom and I were both military brats growing up, so both she and I are “stateless,” not from anywhere. Todd owns a business, so Travis and Mitch spent a good portion of their childhoods being raised in an upper-class home, until later, when they all had to adjust to a lower-middle-class lifestyle. Conversely, my mom and I, and our family, have risen from a previously lower-class household to a now solidly upper-middle-class one. Another difference is that Todd, Ryan, and I were the only people whose parents have been together since marriage.
So, despite our apparent similarities, we are actually a very diverse group. That being said, once we began discussing the prompts I had, I was somewhat surprised at how similar everybody’s responses were, regardless of our different backgrounds. Everyone provided me with similar answers to my main question, which regarded just what “citizenship,” means to them (outside of voting, following laws, and paying taxes.) Almost every person I addressed simply said, “that is what citizenship means to me.” This question definitely did not resonate with anybody I spoke with about it. After much prompting, however, I was able to elicit a slightly more solid response to this central question–everybody agreed that citizenship also involves being neighborly, having a sense of patriotism, and being involved in your country. It seemed everybody believed that citizenship is more about community than about the individual, which I found interesting.
I read a few of the suggested questions, to see if anybody was interested in discussing any of them, and every person there was amused by the question about whether or not they had ever had a conversation with somebody from a different background, as that was exactly what we were doing. We also talked about issues important to each of us. Kristen and Mitch are far more liberal, Brittani, Ashlee, and Josh are somewhat liberal on some issues (such as legalization of marijuana,) and very conservative on others, like me and Travis (although the issues we are more centered on are not the same as theirs,) while Jill, Todd, and Denise are all conservative on nearly every issue. We discussed abortion, women in combat, and the election.
I learned it really does not matter what something looks like on the surface—until you get involved and actually interact with another person, you can never really know what they believe in or why. I also learned that my personal views line up much more closely with the older people than with the younger people, beside Travis (we have similar views.) This relates to what I have learned in this class about how different situations change peoples’ beliefs. This was displayed in many of the pieces we read, as well as the two “line” activities we did in class. Paying for the Party showcased how economic class makes a difference, the three environmental pieces that we read (“Why Bother,” “The Energy Diet,” and “Forget Shorter Showers“) showcased how differently people can feel about the same topic. The biggest thing I learned from this project is something that seems obvious when put on paper, but is often forgotten or ignored, which is that you simply cannot tell or predict what a person’s values are based off of any one piece of information. There are innumerable factors that shape who people are and what they believe in, and I think that that is an intrinsically beautiful thing.