In August, I thought I wouldn’t be learning much in this class. I thought I am one of the most progressive, ethically conscious, culturally experienced individuals at this university. It’s embarrassing for me to admit, but I really felt that way. I’ve made a conscious effort in my adult life to learn about other cultures, respect them, be aware of cultural issues and be the best advocate I can be. While I do think I’ve done a good job of that, taking this class has made me realize how much room I have to grow.
I want to tell you about two experiences that happened this semester that humbled me and made me realize I still have a lot to learn.
Firstly, in August, my partner and I got a new neighbor who was extremely loud. He would blast his music, laugh very boisterously, and his visitors seemed to shout at him. We thought he must just be very loud, and often imitated his laughter. I hate to admit it, but we thought it was funny! We didn’t have any malicious intent, but we were just trying to explain this phenomenon we were experiencing. Long story short, we came to find out his name is Robbie and he is hearing impaired. This made us feel like we were so insensitive and careless to assume he was just a loud, obnoxious neighbor, and to imitate his laughter when we heard it.
The second example was before Thanksgiving. It was my last shift before the holiday, and I asked all my coworkers what their plans were. Then, I asked my coworker who is Native American. As soon as the words left my lips, I felt like an idiot. She answered that she would probably go out to eat. I didn’t even think that her culture wouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and sees it in a different way. I felt like such a fool for brainlessly asking her that question.
These examples are very embarrassing for me, but this class has proven my ego wrong. I am not the most perfect social justice warrior. I still need to stop and think about what I say and do. I still need to reach deeper and learn about more marginalized peoples and culture. This will be a never-ending journey, but one I am honored to take. I will continue to try harder and harder to be an active advocate and to march on the front lines of progressive change that will hopefully benefit generations to come.