Challenge views, open minds


University of Kentucky student Shannon Frazer, pictured in the Kernel office on 10/14/09. Photo by Ed Matthews

Column by Shannon Frazer. E-mail [email protected].

I’d like to think I’m a pretty open-minded person. I try to take everyone’s opinion in stride, and understand that all voices deserve to be heard.

But even with all of my efforts, I have to realize that my own prejudices will come through every time.

I encourage the university community to share its stances on various issues because I want to present balanced opinions on those topics.

More importantly, though, I ask for different viewpoints because I know that eventually, I have to take a side. I want supporters of the other side to have their equal say.

We are shaped by our experiences, biases and fears. We act a certain way or think one view is favorable because that is what we are brought up to believe, or how past situations have conditioned us to react.

For every person who believes one thing, there is another person who believes exactly the opposite. And that doesn’t include all of the shades of gray in between.

That is what I love most about people. We are not bound by instinct alone to determine our next course of action; we have the will to choose.

The majority of people determine what is “most right” by personal intuition.

These people think it’s detrimental to take on others’ views, especially if those views don’t support their ideas of what is right. Once they identify their beliefs, they gain a self-realized sense of privilege to advise others to share in those beliefs.

Adamantly (and publicly), I choose to take the opposite side. It’s dangerous to think personal perspective is the end all, be all.

The most viable solution to combat this mentality is to practice selflessness. I advise taking a hypothetical walk in someone else’s shoes and see what happens.

Even when presented with a perspective completely different from my own or with which I whole-heartedly disagree, I can still get something out of it.

I can learn to view things through another pair of eyes, to consider others’ experiences and cultural norms that may seem foreign to me initially.

My sense of self and its relationship to the world around me is forcibly changed when I realize there is someone out there who perceives that same world in a radically different way.

My views are challenged. And that is the point when my mind truly may be opened.