Letter strikes a chord

Published 11:03am Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Over the summer I read a letter to the editor of this paper that struck a chord with me and seemed to warrant a response. It ended up at the bottom of a pile to which I am only now returning.

It was entitled “LGTB community active in county.” The writer lamented the lack of representation of lifestyles other than those consistent with what you would expect in “the Deep South, the Bible Belt” in the paper’s Lifestyles section.

It made me think about diversity in Shelby County, how it is lived and encountered by those who consider themselves the norm.

Although I am straight, I strive to be an active ally to the LGBT community.

So, I considered the author’s complaint.

At first glance there doesn’t seem to be much representation of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered members of our community in the human interest stories of our local paper.

But due to the fact that it is impossible to determine a person’s sexual orientation by looking at them, by the job they do or hobbies they have, it’s really hard to know. Actually, there is probably more representation of the LGBT community in the media, including the Shelby County Reporter, than we realize.

However, the letter’s author does still make a very important point about how we deal with diversity around here.

As someone who grew up in the South but has spent most of my adult life elsewhere, I have experienced how comforting and compelling southern hospitality and compulsory politeness can be.

Nonetheless, I feel that these norms of not rocking the boat or discussing topics that might be controversial or cause a little conflict have really slowed the development of a truly multicultural society in the South. Southern hospitality breeds tolerance, but not the deep understanding of ourselves and each other that is the foundation of real social justice.

So I agree with the author of the aforementioned letter to the editor.

We should do more to showcase our diversity to compel us to engage in civil discourse across our differences.

I believe once we embrace this we will find that we have more in common than we think.

Kimberly Barrett is the vice president of student affairs at the University of Montevallo.

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