Point of View: Diversity should permeate personal relationships, too

By Caitlin Giddens

A student raises his hand to state his opinion, a belief that contrasts so starkly from your own you remember why you’ve never followed through with that coffee date.

His opinion is the polar opposite of yours. Therefore, it can be assumed you could never foster a friendship.

What would begin as a casual conversation would escalate into a heated argument and your debate quota has already been met in political science class as you discuss court cases and political leanings.

But as I’ve discovered from immersing myself in the various organizations on campus , and it is something your mom probably reminded you before facing kindergarten class: We do not have the same opinions because we are not all the same.

And it is this differentiation in opinions and cultures that defines us as Americans, as intellectuals and, dare I say, as humans.

I believe it is the closet narcissist in us all that causes us to gravitate toward people almost exactly like ourselves.

We think, “I can’t wait to get to know this person. He seems so interesting.”

But there’s no need to invest time in that person if they are exactly like you, unless of course you are tirelessly interested in getting acquainted with yourself.

How many times have you seen a cluster of girls with almost the exact same hair color, outfit and personality glued together? Or a pack of guys you couldn’t separate in a police line up?

Perhaps it’s my quirky side that wants nothing more than to unhinge these people and throw someone completely different into the mundane mix.

If we are seeking people exactly like ourselves, then there is no need to branch out by attending college.

Sure, Baylor may be a private Texas school with a Christian heritage, but there is plenty of diversity present on campus.

You don’t have to study abroad for a semester to find people with contrasting cultures. You just have to take a second look around campus. For a change, instead of focusing on the big-name organizations on campus, take note of some other campus groups.

The Association of Black Students organizes great events for Black History Month in February. And the Swing Dance Society brings an assortment of people together each week.

It’s a display of the anti-cookie-cutter personalities you pictured when you thought of college. It’s the type of organization you planned on joining first semester, just because it was new and exciting and different.

If you are completely rooted in your beliefs, then there is no harm in associating yourself with different types of people. In fact, I believe it grows your own thoughts and personality.

Finding someone who differs vastly from yourself can cement your sense of self, which, if I recall correctly, is one reason for attending college.

Also, the conversations you have could make for a more riveting Friday night.

Instead of thinking, “We have so much in common. So I think you’re cool.” You’ll realize, “We differ in a few ways, and that makes this exciting and challenging and surprising.”

Diverse friendships gently force us to become more knowledgeable and cultured people.

I’m not saying you should stumble into a situation that would leave you feeling uncomfortable.

That’s not challenging. It is just unwise. But instead of chastising your peers for their differences in opinion, celebrate each other’s differences.

Those are the very differences that make college a true experience and stretch your mind in a beautiful way.

Follow through with that coffee date. And enjoy a conversation that reaches beyond your mutual love for Nike shorts and studying in Jones Library.

By stepping out of your comfort zone, you’ll find experiences grow the person you are and the person you are becoming.

Caitlin Giddens is a sophomore journalism major from Tyler and a reporter for the Lariat.