About a month ago, I was at the Cove with some friends when a girl I didn’t know asked me where I was from. When I told her, “Dayton, Ohio,” her seeming friendliness suddenly changed. She said, “Oh,” with a disgusted look on her face and immediately walked away. For a moment, I was in a state of shock. What had I done that had so disgusted her? When I realized it was my hometown that she found revolting, I couldn’t help but laugh- it was all I could do. The idea that someone was unworthy of being spoken to because of where they were from was so absurd to me that I couldn’t even properly make sense of it.
In the days that followed, I couldn’t get the brief interaction out of my mind. Should I be angry at having such an important part of my upbringing insulted? Tickled at the pure absurdity of it? For a time, I constantly flip-flopped between these two emotions. Ultimately, more than anything, I was disappointed. Disappointed someone at Kenyon would be narrow-minded enough to completely dismiss another person purely because of where they come from.
I like to think Kenyon is an open-minded, welcoming place, but I know that isn’t always true. In the grand scheme of things, a girl walking away from me because I come from the “wrong town” isn’t that big of a deal. At the same time, it speaks to a problem some students seem to have with the state they go to school in. They view Ohio as a sort of wasteland full of culturally backwards people who are somehow less than them, a desert of ignorance with Kenyon being an oasis of enlightenment. I don’t mean to insinuate most people at Kenyon feel this way; the vast majority does not. But there is enough of this sentiment that it’s noticeable. It’s a poisonous worldview that cheapens what it means to be a student at a school like Kenyon, because part of what’s so special about out school is the people from all walks of life you get to meet and the different perspectives they bring that challenge and reshape your own. By dismissing an entire group of students because of one small thing about them, something they have no control over, you are cheating yourself out of a special opportunity not many people get to have. So I’m not angry with that girl, or with anyone who feels the way she does. I’m just disappointed.