typical college student while sitting on a bus from Columbus to Cleveland last weekend. Headphones in, a textbook and notebook sharing my lap, I was completely shut off from my surroundings. Near the end of the trip, though, long after my album had stopped playing on my iPod, I awoke from this trance to a strange noise. I originally thought it was a siren or something else coming from the outside of the bus, but quickly realized it was just some kids jamming out to Miley Cyrus.
I was immediately annoyed. While we only had about 10 minutes left on our trip, I was still trying to get work done. Furthermore, didn’t they know to use headphones? And to whisper if they actually needed to talk? I looked around, and it seemed like my fellow passengers agreed with me. Instead of turning around and politely asking them to turn it down, however, my fellow passengers were turning their heads, rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. I, personally, tried to ignore them and decided it wasn’t that big of a deal. I also thought of how I could make the whole situation into an extremely passive aggressive yet funny Kenyon Confession.
I realized, however, that my response was self-contradictory. If I cared so much to write about my annoyance online, why didn’t I want to say something to actually try to fix it? On the other hand, if I truly believed it wasn’t that big of a deal, why was my initial reaction to complain about it? Kenyon Confessions has been a popular topic for contributors to this section; they’ve argued its existence is explained by Kenyon’s “oft-repressive culture” (“Kenyon Confessions Not to be Taken Lightly,” Oct. 31, 2013) or our lack of desire to share our strong opinions on campus (“Virtual Community Hurts Kenyon Character,” Nov. 7, 2013). While both have valid points, neither addressed what I experienced on my bus: our desire to avoid conflict, yet complain about it later in what’s probably an attempt to either gain empathy or feelings of superiority. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless it either fails to address, or even breeds, social issues in real life.
I’ve been noticing more posts lately about discrimination/minority issues on Kenyon Confessions. While I’ve had different gut reactions to each post, I’ve always come away concluding that I simply need more information to understand the situation. Call it my white male cis privilege, but I certainly don’t experience many of these issues firsthand in my day-to-day life. Recently, I sent what I thought was an offhanded joke to a friend that ended up making her feel extremely uncomfortable. Luckily, she was able to come talk to me about it. I was at first shocked (as it of course was nowhere near my intention to upset her), yet I was able to empathize with her and learn what it was that I did wrong.
However, if she didn’t come talk to me, and instead turned the event into a Confession, I would have been none the wiser. But going back to the bus, I realized that all of our eye rolling and head shaking was actually a prejudiced judgment of the kids playing music. Instead of anyone telling them they were harming others, we all just assumed they were “like that.” Without confronting our actual issues in real life, and just letting them wither and die online, nothing will be able to change.
Derek Foret ’17 is a prospective math major from Washington, D.C. He can be contacted at email@example.com.