Over fall break, at my home in Pittsboro/Brownsburg, Indiana, I gathered the most diverse group I could on notice and had dinner with them. This group consisted of my dad and mom, Steve and Diane, and two of my closest friends from high school Mallory and Mackenzie. It should be noted that although we all live in Brownsburg, my mom and dad are from rural Northern Indiana. Mallory, Mackenzie, and I graduated with 560 in our class, while my parents graduated with about 100. Between the three college freshman, we each have experienced something a little different so far. Mallory goes to Butler University in Indianapolis, a small-ish liberal arts school where she studies Pre-Pharmacy. Mackenzie attends Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, a very large school, studying biology and Spanish. Obviously I attend WKU, which is a school of the in between size, studying Sport Management. All three of us were raised in the Christian church. My dad and mom grew up in a farming community with approximately 4 stoplights between the 2 towns they were in most. They went to Butler University and University of Indianapolis, respectively, so they received an education similar to Mallory’s. My dad works from home as an underwriter for an insurance company. My mom has an accounting degree, but she has run her own consulting business out of our basement for 15 years and is very successful at her job. Each of us, although coming from very similar places, have slightly different views on our country and the world.
One thing that has consistently struck a chord with me in class is the idea of being a global citizen. When I mentioned this over our burgers and potato chips, Mackenzie said that we should be able to see another country through the eyes of our own, not judging the people there or thinking of their culture or government as strange. Mallory built on that by mentioning that we look at our countries’ governments and think ‘they don’t have a democracy, we should fix that’ when in reality, that may not be the best thing for them, which creates conflict. Being a global citizen should entail accepting not only cultures but governments, choices, and ideas of other countries. My mom said that, in terms of the United States and the world, citizenship means service and participating in your community. My dad said knowing your neighbors, being involved in the community, and taking pride for where you live are all important aspects of citizenship as well.
The thing that stuck with me the most was when we talked about the diversity that each of us has encountered with a specific person. Mackenzie talked about how she has talked to a girl in her sociology class who absolutely, genuinely hates her parents. Coming from a very put together and close knit home, Mackenzie was fascinated by this. This girl is also a part of the LGBT community, and made a point to tell Mackenzie this because she knew Mack is a Christian. Mackenzie said she never would’ve guessed that this outgoing and neat girl had so much baggage that she carried around with her, especially because at the surface she seemed very similar.
My dad coaches middle school basketball and has interacted with several young kids in single parent situations or rough family life, so he is more familiar with diversity in that sense. My dad has also worked with several people who grew up outside of America, but have adapted to speak fluent English and work well within the company. He made the point that as long as someone is a hard worker, you can assimilate anywhere.
Mallory has gone through a major encounter with diversity this year as one of her roommates in Amish. She is very conservative in her values and views, and she is still adapting to being outside of her normal community. Amish people live in southern Indiana mainly, so none of us have had a lot of interaction with Amish, so it was interesting listening to Mallory talk about it. One of Mal’s other roommates is black from Chicago. Her whole apartment is a very diverse location. She’s also been exposed to an interesting type of diversity at Butler, which really dug deeper into our conversation about diversity, especially in education. As a liberal arts school, with a renowned school of dance and music, Butler is thought to be and is advertised as very diverse. Although Mallory says there are even more LGBTQ+ students than there were at our high school (which was probably more than the average Indiana high school), there’s not much diversity besides that factor. Butler is a very expensive school, so the majority of the students there are middle to upper class and white. It was fascinating to her talk about this gap between what the school would seem like and what it really is. They don’t offer many scholarships, so even though its proximity in the heart of North Indianapolis should attract more inner city students, it doesn’t because they can’t afford it. Almost all the students are not first generation college students, so those who are become frustrated, according to Mallory. She has had lots of work in the inner city with the public elementary schools. She says Butler is “a close minded place that pretends to be very open minded”.
My mom also had a very interesting interaction with diversity. She grew up on a family farm working alongside migrant Mexican workers. They stayed at the farm and my mom grew up right with them. She walked the halls with them while they were bullied at school for being her “family’s Mexicans”. She knew what it must have felt like for them. When my uncle came out as gay a few years ago, my grandmother really struggled with it and didn’t understand how my mom was so accepting of it. My mom reminded her mom that she grew up with those kids who were different than her, who were teased by others for being different, and that my uncle could probably relate a little bit to that on the inside.
In this discussion around my kitchen table in Pittsboro/Brownsburg, Indiana, I learned most about diversity. I learned that sometimes diversity can be falsified and other times it can be very, very hidden. We don’t know someone’s story until we hear it for ourselves. I think in this very divided world, we often forget the age old rule that no two people are alike. No matter how many similarities they have on the outside, their insides may be completely different. They may be screaming the opposite on the inside. But we would never get the chance to know that if we assumed they were the same as us. I didn’t know some of these things about my parents and my best friends. I heard stories that would may have never been brought up if it weren’t for this project, and I’m very grateful for that.
In terms of Citizen and Self, it became very real for me that we all have different bridges. We may all want to be in the same place, or we may want to be in a different place, but regardless the steps each of us wants to take to get there is different. And we also must keep in mind, that the steps each of us NEEDS to take to get there will be different as well. Because we each have our own story, we each have our path, we each have our own ideas, and we each have our own passions, there’s no possible way that we can each take the same steps across that bridge to get to our desired outcome. But at the very least, I think we can all hope that we end off better than where we started with each step we take no matter what it may be.