“I’ll stay me.” –Luke Bryan
My name is Maggie. I’m different, but I’m a fellow human being.
Upon my arrival at Duke, I was extremely overwhelmed. I had never met people with beliefs so different from mine, but I had expected and wanted this change, this diversity of opinion and culture. I wanted to know the world, not just the small town where I grew up.
What I did not expect was how out of place I would feel. People at Duke appeared to be open-minded, so when the opportunity arose, I told people that I was a Christian. I told them that I came from a small southern town with very conservative beliefs. I told them that I believed these things that are so foreign to many at Duke.
The response—“Aw, she’s adorable.” I was not considered a fellow intellectual anymore. I was instead treated as a cute, mindless puppy. I was the sweet little girl who did not understand what the world was really like. I often cried myself to sleep, feeling like I had made a huge mistake stepping so far out of my comfort zone. Instead of letting the judgments affect my character, I listened. I stayed silent because I wanted to learn about these people and hear what they had to say.
I kept my beliefs in the background, though, for two years now, in order to listen to others. I admit that two years is not enough time to completely understand other people, where they come from and what they believe. But neither is one article. Because the very thing they accuse me of is being narrow-minded, judgmental and intolerant, maybe it’s time for them to reconsider their preconceived notions and first look at how they responded to an opinion unlike their own.
Everyone was kind and loving—when I kept my opinions to myself—so I made friends, accepting each person as they were. We could find similarities in our different beliefs. I compared opposing beliefs to my own. I considered where my opinions came from and if they were valid. I studied. I thought. I talked to people. I tried to find the right answers and my place at Duke.
Contrary to what many at Duke expected, my initial beliefs were strengthened.
No, I have not experienced the same life as anyone at Duke, but no one at Duke has experienced my life either. Who is to say that their background and experiences are inherently better than mine? What entitles them to make the ultimate decision about right versus wrong, acceptable versus unacceptable? What innately discounts my experiences and deems them insufficient to draw intellectual conclusions from? Where I come from deserves attention and respect too.
It is not okay to disregard my views without giving me a chance. When I came to Duke and experienced the shock of such diverse beliefs, I did exactly that—gave everyone a chance. And I made great friends, despite the fact that I disagreed with their entire belief systems and ways of life and despite the fact that they would not take what I had to say seriously. When many people experienced the shock of my beliefs, they attacked.
I was terrified to publish my beliefs for fear of losing friends, being hated by those who have never met me and even being kept from positions or jobs due to my political, religious and moral views. Is that the Duke way—tolerance and acceptance for all, unless someone believes something that other people dislike and stands up for those opinions?
Through my last column, I initially hoped to show Duke a different outlook and to challenge my classmates to consider another side. I hoped we could discuss these matters as mature adults and still be friends through our differences. I hoped to be able to come out with my beliefs and still be accepted. Many of my classmates have showed me that these hopes are just dreams. Although I listen to my classmates and accept them, they will not accept me or even give me the courtesy of hearing what I have to say and getting to know me as a person. To make friends with these people at Duke—we get it—those who believe as I do have to stay silent.
Well, I will not stay silent anymore. I shouldn’t have to. I will continue to show Duke a different side to current issues, but I no longer expect open-mindedness in those who claim to be so tolerant. I expect to be attacked and criticized for being different and expressing my individuality. Thanks to those who attack at the first sign of deviation from the norm at Duke.
Maggie Hammerle is a Trinity junior. This is her second column in a biweekly series during the summer.