VALDEZ: We must curb outrage, keep it in perspective


Opinion Column: The Power of An Open Mind

Everyone was in shock. I looked around the classroom and saw people’s confused expressions. Nobody could believe what was happening. A student was standing on the table screaming. That is right, a college student was yelling at the top of her lungs during the middle of class.

We had been Skyping with an author during creative writing class. One of his talking points was about how he thought authors should be able to write about any type of character or situation, as long as they are educated on the matter. For example, he spoke about how he had written a novel from the perspective of a Black slave, even though he is white. 

This spawned the most unexpected occurrence that I have ever seen inside of a classroom. During the Q&A session, a girl stood on the table with her hands on her hips and yelled, “I have been very offended with some of the things that you have said!” I put my face in my hands and thought, “Oh boy, here we go.”

“How could you have the nerve to write about an oppression that is not yours? That is incredibly disrespectful,” she screamed at his bewildered face. She took it a step further, bringing it to a personal level. “You are Jewish, how would you feel if someone of a different religion wrote about the Holocaust? You are profiting from white guilt!”

Initially, I found it hilarious. I had to hold in my laughter. It reminded of a scene you would find in a low-budget comedy film. I had so many questions. Was I suddenly transferred to a parallel universe, where it was acceptable for students to yell at someone during class? Was the author really an ignorant monster, or was the girl just overreacting? 

After giving it some thought, I am leaning toward the latter. It would have been one thing if he had somehow twisted history or downplayed the slave’s struggle, but that was not the case. Several times, he noted that he did his research before starting the book. He acknowledged that not everyone would think a white man would be qualified to speak about the struggles of a Black person. This is why he made sure that the story was historically accurate. He simply told the reality of the time period — the slave was at a disadvantaged position, and a victim of institutional racism. 

I talked to a classmate about it, and she said, “It was like the real-life version of people arguing about social issues online.” She hit the nail on the head. We live in a time where people argue on social media about an infinite amount of topics including politics, race relations and which Kardashian is more attractive. More often than not, it becomes a contest to see who can get the most attention. These arguments rarely result in intellectual growth, or anything productive for that matter.

I could say the same for what happened that day in class. What exactly did that girl accomplish by standing on the table and making a spectacle? Sure, she had the right to express her opinion. But there is a difference between respectfully disagreeing with someone, and completely losing your temper over their opinion. At the end of the day, she created a memorable moment for everyone in the room. But judging by their annoyed facial expressions, I doubt she affected anyone’s personal views.

Whether it is online or real-life shouting matches, it is important to keep things in perspective. While there are people like the girl from class screaming at an author over his book, Venezuela is currently going through a socioeconomic and political crisis. Many of its citizens have to search through garbage for food because of shortages. In fact, according to dosomething.org, roughly 805 million people worldwide are malnourished on a daily basis. 

Personally, I could never get myself worked up over someone’s creative expression when there are hundreds of millions of people that do not even have access to basic needs. I am blessed enough to be a college student in a developed country, with access to food and water at all times. 

Whenever I see someone get offended over something that is not worth the energy, I wonder what those people in need would think. They would probably say something like, “How lucky are they to be in the position to worry about being offended, while I have to worry about starving to death?” 

If you are the type of person that gets easily offended when someone disagrees with you, I urge you to remember one word: Gratitude. Counting my blessings always helps me maintain a calm attitude and an open mind. I hope you remember to do the same.

Josh Valdez is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring  in journalism and media studies and minoring in creative writing. His  column, “The Power of an Open Mind,” runs on alternate Thursdays.

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