By Ryleigh Norgrove
Willamette University, though fiercely and predominantly liberal, is structurally dependent on social normalities. We actively preach inclusivity and selflessness, yet in the social sphere, we rely heavily on exclusionary structures. In my mind, this irony hardly goes unnoticed.
Willamette, like the vast majority of institutions, subscribes to a prevalent “note-taking culture.” In class, we take notes to retain information and learn about new subjects. In the social sphere, we take notes on the behaviors of our peers. These notes, judgements and claims are passed from student to student, and thus your reputation is born. This is not an entirely new phenomenon. Our day-to-day observations have always defined how we interact with our surroundings, and Willamette’s small campus only amplifies its effects. Note-taking culture acts as a catalyst for exclusionary behavior.
Over my lifetime I have been an unfortunate casualty of this “note-taking” system. As a 5’2 freshman, I appear unassuming. Though many will tell you I am quite the opposite. It is not uncommon for me to be labeled as “insane” or “intense.” As an ambitious college student, it may be surprising that yes, I am passionate and driven. So here it is, a personal liberation from the note-taking culture intent upon defining my character. A written assertion in defense of firecrackers, flamethrowers and blazing women. As well as the systems that condemn us.
It’s interesting how we cherry-pick labels for each other. Subconsciously we determine someone isn’t “quite right”. This mentality isn’t exclusive to Willamette, it runs through everyone, from celebrities to religious leaders. This compulsion to ostracize others is pertanet in our entire society. There’s quite a bit of hypocrisy here, seeing as we reject others for who they are, but insist that others love and accept us the way we are. It stems from the commodified “perfectness” projected in the media. It relies on two extremes, the notion that any human being is faultless and virtuous individuals aren’t judgemental.
It is a well-known fact that environment affects a person’s thoughts and opinions. Our beliefs about racism, homophobia and sexism are taught. These “notes” of thought are passed on from generation to generation. To achieve a “true” inclusivity standard, we have to not only discard the “notes” passed on from others, but refrain from writing our own.
We can cope with our hypercritical society in two ways; the one we choose is closely aligned with the way we inherently view ourselves. We can seek to love ourselves more, and therefore not align our self-worth with others’ approval. A majority of us make the alternate choice: making others feel inferior by labeling them with inflammatory, cruel words, thereby creating even more resistance. In an effort to be seen as superior we drag others down, painting them as inferior.
It is because of this I am labeled “intense” or “insane.” By subscribing to a system that dooms us from the start, we become closed-minded to new people and experiences. Which is terribly ironic, seeing as Willamette and its students boast of acceptance and tolerance.
In our social sphere, doused in superiority/inferiority complexes, it is important to reflect upon our origin. Human beings emanated from one source (though you may debate its nature) and celebrate our similarities, not focus on perceived differences.