For my Kentucky Kitchen Table, I was paired with Callie. I brought my boyfriend, Isaac, and my friends, Shelby and Thomas, while Callie brought her friend, Carla. Overall, we may not have been the most diverse set of people, but we did have our differences. Carla was of Hispanic descent while the rest of us were caucasian. Additionally, most of us were from small towns in and around Kentucky, while Carla was originally from Los Angeles County in California. Isaac and I were also set apart by the fact that we are on the LGBT+ spectrum, and we don’t really follow any religion like most people in Kentucky who are Christian.
To be more in-depth, I am a senior psychology student from Lawrenceburg, KY. Shelby went to high school with me, and we were also roommates for three years at WKU. She is also a psychology student and a senior. Thomas is her boyfriend, and he used to be roommates with my boyfriend. He is a biology student from Mayfield, KY. Isaac, my boyfriend, is a meteorology student from Aurora, IN. We have all been friends since shortly after we arrived at college in 2013. Callie is from Muhlenberg County, KY, and Carla is a psychology student from Shelbyville, KY.
For dinner, Isaac and I made spaghetti with two kinds of sauces for everyone. Callie and Carla brought garlic bread and cookies, and Shelby made bruschetta (and provided her apartment for us to have dinner in). Even though the apartment and kitchen were small and we didn’t have enough dining chairs, we made it work!
While we did talk about many citizenship issues that were given in the example questions, I think the most fun part of the meal was sharing personal stories with one another. We would start with a question from the guide and end up getting off-topic when we realized what we had in common. Callie and Carla are both underclassmen in the Honors College, while my friends and I are seniors in the Honors College. We all bonded by talking about our days at H-4 and in Minton Hall.
I think one of my favorite questions we talked about was “What social issue is closest to your heart and why?” I really enjoyed hearing each person’s issue and felt like I knew them a lot better afterward. Even with my friends, Thomas and Shelby, I didn’t really know what their answers were going to be before they said them. Shelby answered that she cared the most about gun control, which I knew she cared about but not so much. Thomas answered that he cared the most about vaccinations and education on GMOs. Callie also answered that gun control was most important to her, which I thought was cool; I honestly didn’t think about that issue when I asked everyone the question. While it is an issue I care about, to me, it wasn’t so salient to me at the time.
Carla answered that her most important issue was race, while Isaac and I answered that we cared the most about LGBT+ rights. I think we had an interesting conversation about why those issues were important to us and maybe not as important to the others at the table. For example, I said that race was an important issue to me, but that I didn’t feel it could be my most important since I am caucasian and I have never experienced racism first-hand. In this way, it was interesting to me that Shelby, Thomas, and Callie chose issues that were not exactly related to basic human rights like racism, sexism, or homophobia. Not to say this is a bad thing, of course! It was just cool to see what people really care about the most.
Another one of my favorite questions we asked was “Have you ever had a conversation with someone from a really difference background than yourself?” Most of us were from small towns where most people were white, Christian, Republican, etc. Callie said that as someone from a small homogenous town, she never spoke to anyone with a different background until she went to GSP. Shelby talked about the experience she had staying with an Italian host family on a study-abroad trip to Europe. Isaac and Thomas struggled to think of an example, jokingly citing the single person who is identifiable as a minority on their floor in Minton. I thought this was kind of telling since while WKU may be a diverse place, the diversity decreases once you go into the Honors College. It’s almost 90% white; it can be hard to interact with diverse people when you live with other Honors students, take classes with them, and interact at events with them.
We also talked about how not only WKU but Bowling Green itself was diverse. I used to live here before moving to Lawrenceburg, and when I was here I had friends of three different ethnicities. This diversity was also brought up when we talked about things that we love about our town.
I think a lot of our conversations related to the concept from class of having actual experiences. Experiences with others who are diverse are especially important so that we can all understand each other better. Thomas talked about how he used to be Catholic until he came to college. He also did not personally know any gay people and didn’t have the best feelings toward them before he found out that Isaac was bisexual. After spending time with Isaac, he realized that gay people are just like everyone else, and he learned a lot about those outside of his white, Republican hometown.
Even though Thomas could have probably read about someone like Isaac and “learned” the same thing, it wouldn’t have compared to the experience of living with him for three years. You not only have to practice educational subjects to learn, but I think that you have to practice being around people to really learn about them too. Reading about other cultures is great, but you can never fully learn about them until you experience them first-hand. There are so many personal differences between people in a culture (and similarities to your own culture) that you can’t experience without communicating with others.
Overall, I liked the experience more than I thought! I feel like I learned a lot about others’ points of view, not only from the strangers at the table but even from my friends as well.