Recently, I attended a talk circle as a required outside enrichment opportunity with other Religion 200 students. In the talk, alongside other random students partaking in the class, we gathered to discuss diversity in our personal experience and the college experience as a whole. One of the activities involved a student talking for three minutes to a partner, who was prohibited from making any verbal or physical sign of response other than baseline eye contact. Afterwards, the collective response from the group was that being unable to respond or interact was uncomfortable.
From the beginning of our lives, we are taught acceptable ways to interact and converse. These social cues and interactions involve nodding and unconscious motions that amount to agreeing with the person talking, which leads to the advancing of a negative view of disagreement in our culture. Not only that, but I was uneasy in hearing only what I experience, rather than listening and incorporating the experience with the perception of the peers around me.
From this activity’s discomfort, I noticed that as a society, we are ingrained to agree without a second thought to our peers around us lest we come off as rude. This displays the systemic flaws in simple daily conversation that add up to a resulting anger seen recently in our nation. This discomfort is not a foreign concept within the Cobber community.
Being a nation that was first built on disagreement, it is important to note the complete flip-flop of today’s social cues. These changes illuminate larger cracks in our foundation than we openly recognize as a nation. The ability to have civil disagreement has been praised throughout history as the only way for progress to be made and for people to come together to create change. This is seen in moments like Rosa Parks refusing to give up her chair on a bus of white people, or even bipartisan change at the national level (which is now unheard of). With 24-hour news and the continuous development of social media platforms, it seems there is an overwhelming saturation of people constantly disagreeing with each other. Yet, if our in-person conversations reflect a culture of false agreement in the form of passive head nods to come appear polite, our truest interactions as complex beings have been blunted. How are we able to continue on the collective journey of progress if opposition is avoided and expressed exclusively on social media? Is the comforting anonymity of the internet fostering solutions or exacerbating arguments and leading to avoidance of our consequences?
There is no lack of relevance for this issue on campus with the recent signs stating “it’s okay to be white” posted without identification across campus. Much like President Craft stated in his response, not only does this tactic isolate students and degrade minorities, but it eliminates the ability to have a conversation or civil disagreement. As a culture that is shifting away from in-person confrontation and hiding behind screens and anonymous public demonstrations like the white power signs, cries of outrage should demand change. Yet the sad fact is, many students avoid and glaze past issues such as these, pretending they do not directly affect their lives or that scrolling past them in their timelines will rid them of the issue.
President Craft’s responding statement was simply the beginning of turning this corner here at home. It takes action past recognition of the problem to change it. It takes everyday people refusing to scroll past this relevant issue or not avoiding enacting civil disagreement instead of outwardly agreeing and creating a vicious cycle of misinformation and invalid feelings. Internalizing your opinion and not addressing the differences in individual beliefs head-on allows for disagreements such as these to fester. The long overdue responses result in messy situations, like the hostile signs on campus and the endless fights we see in the streets of our beloved cities.
Take time to reflect on the lessons within religion activities, business role plays, or musical rehearsals and the enlightenment of these activities that can shape each day to be more honest to your true opinion than the last. Incorporating more headshakes and even more of the colloquial “but” into our Concordia dialogue will enact the change our campus seeks. Being a happy Cobber does not count if you simply hide the anger and disagreement behind a phone screen and anonymous public acts.
Be part of the change.