My time at Point Park has so far been a generally positive one, right now I’m just a sophomore getting by like many others. An occasional speed bump, but that’s expected during freshman year. I’m not even going to touch upon this fall semester; it has been a mess, and everyone knows that. There has been one thing that has clouded my days up to now, which is the fact that almost everyone I encounter thinks I am a conservative based on how I look.
My own roommate even admitted to me that at first glance he thought I looked like a conservative. Once we spoke about it, he was able to draw a separate conclusion, admitting that he “did judge a book by its cover.”
My first brush with this assumption happened quickly into my first semester downtown. Last year, I was asked if I was a conservative by someone out of nowhere in the middle of casual conversation, and when I gave them my answer, the look of surprise on their face was very evident. I can remember them saying, “Wow, I didn’t pin you for a liberal.” At the time, this did not phase me, but over time, the conversation felt like a broken record. They texted me later that night asking, “Do you like Biden?” with me replying with, “No, I like Bernie” and to which I got the response, “Yikes.”
Multiple times I have found myself assuring people that I am indeed a liberal and not a conservative, as I don’t want someone to think I am something that I am not. This has led me to change the way I act, talk and introduce myself.
Point Park University is an institution which houses many people of diverse religions, races, and backgrounds. Students come from all walks of life, from across the world, to the city of Pittsburgh to further their education, and that is one of the many reasons why I love this school.
I grew up in a mostly conservative household and did not concern myself with politics until I got to high school, where political conflicts are more prevalent, when people try to find their spot in life. On one of my last days of senior year, I was sitting in a study hall and I was talking about how I liked the idea of universal healthcare and a casual acquaintance said, “wait you don’t like Trump? You just gave off that ‘vibe’”. I had liberal friends, I had conservative friends, I never really made my stance known. None of that really mattered to me at the time, and within reason someone’s political stance does not matter to me now.
If you ever see me on campus or if you know me, you know I stick to a very basic line of clothing. Jeans, tennis shoes, a t-shirt and, weather permitting, a flannel. I am also not a significant-looking person, not exactly distinguishable. I usually rock some sub-par facial hair, and short to medium long hair. I am white, about 5’10 and I have a dad bod that would put others to shame in my opinion.
Over time, I’ve changed my dress. I began my freshman year dressing how I usually did, cowboy boots, jeans, a buttoned up flannel and a hat. I refrain from wearing any of that stuff now, and the cowboy boots definitely stay tucked away in the closet—basically anything that could possibly hint to someone that I am conservative. Before masks became a thing in our everyday life, I would try to stay clean shaven and make myself look more delicate: less of a, ‘big, burly, gun toting, yeehaw kid’ as I have often been described. I try to make myself look smaller, less intimidating. I cuff my jeans at the bottom and never button my flannel; anything to make myself more approachable. Overall, I don’t mind this change, (I think it gave me a better sense of style) I more or less found it interesting that it happened.
I write for The Globe regularly, and I have worked as an editor since Spring 2020. I have had people that I work with there tell me this semester that if they had to guess my political stance, they would guess conservative. Of course they know me, but it just goes to show how much appearance plays into people’s perception of you.
Not only do I experience this phenomenon on campus, I experience it at work. I work in a mechanic shop on the weekends, changing tires and oil. This industry is heavily dominated by conservatives. Having worked with many different people, I can draw that conclusion to be roughly true, with the occasional exception.
When asked what my major is at college, I tell them I’m a journalism major, which is almost always followed by laughing or scorn of some degree. Recently, I remember talking with a coworker about what I want to do after I graduate college, to which I responded honestly saying, “I don’t know, I could work at CNN if I pushed hard enough though.” He said to me something that really got me thinking about writing this article. “Man, you’d be the only Republican working at CNN. Good luck with that.”
This event in particular baffled me. At the moment I just didn’t understand how someone could be so dense, but, before correcting him, I stopped myself and I just simply laughed and responded with, “Yeah wouldn’t that suck.”
I find myself pretending to agree with others at work on various topics to just get through the day. Most of the time, it’s something I can run back in my head and tell my friends and get a good laugh at.
There is an obvious downside to working on cars, you get really dirty. When I work, some of this stuff is just unavoidable, and it stains my callused hands and, despite feverish attempts to remove them, they remain. This means that they stay stained black or brown on parts of my hands. To combat that, I just stick my hands in my pockets when appropriate. People see my hands, feel them when I shake theirs, and it makes me extremely self conscious. I feel as if I need to hide my hands so I don’t have to explain that I work in a garage, to avoid them drawing the conclusion that I am a Republican.
I have many hobbies and interests that might not line up directly with the stereotypical liberal school of thought. When I meet people, I do not tell them I am an avid fisherman or hunter for the same reason I don’t tell anyone where I work unless directly asked. Usually, it takes some conversation to clear things up after I tell them I associate with and enjoy these things. I don’t lie to anyone, but I leave out information that feels like it could be incriminating in the eyes of the liberal dominant Point Park community.
I deal with all of this every day of my life. It is something I have grown used to, and I do not expect this to change. I choose to work where I work because it is something I enjoy. I wear what I wear and participate in the hobbies I do because I enjoy them. The effect of living downtown and being enrolled at Point Park has changed me for the better, which I do not doubt for a second.
The environment has effectively made me alter my way of life in order to fit in. I don’t feel like I’m oppressed, I don’t want anyone to walk away from reading this thinking that. I can recognize that as a white cis male, I have privilege. The message I want to remind everyone of is something we have been hearing since we were children.
Do not judge a book by its cover.