Two writers tackle the fog of controversy that surrounds Georgia State's newest organization.
“IT’S TIME” states the banner in large bold font on the home page of Georgia State’s newest and possibly most controversial organization. This fall, our campus will see its first White Student Union. Are we to fold our arms together and turn our noses upward in the name of decency? Or, do we part our arms, level our head, and bestow a smile in the name of diversity?
-Ami Dudley, Opinions Editor
An Opinion in Favor of the White Student Union by Mitchell Oliver
This Fall, if everything goes as planned and enough interest is shown, Georgia State University may have the inaugural year of its very first White Student Union. This is a club or organization just like any other on campus, except its goals are to, as its website states, “Celebrate our common European/Euro-American cultures and discuss issues that affect white people in the world today”. They intend to “advocate for the interests of white people while celebrating heritage, culture, and working with other student groups on campus”.
Obviously this creates a knee-jerk reaction from almost everyone who will immediately call it racism, white supremacy, making light of civil rights, and the like. I see an outcry on the horizon from students and faculty alike. Luckily, this has all already happened before. The idea of a White Student Union is not new.
Just a year ago at Townsen University in Maryland, Matthew Heimbach created a White Student Union with a similar mission. Unlike the GSU union, Heimbach’s club patrolled the streets of campus at night to deter crime. Furthermore, no member of faculty would sponsor the club so it was not officially recognized as a campus organization. I see the Georgia State White Student Union suffering the same fate without a faculty sponsor, but founder Patrick Sharp recently told me in an e-mail “Getting a sponsor is going to be difficult, but I think we’ll find someone. Even if we don’t, the group doesn’t plan on going anywhere”.
Interestingly enough, the creation of a White Student Union at Georgia State will have, in my opinion, much further reaching consequences: both good and bad. For one, the ethnic diversity is much more evenly distributed than that of Townsen (a school where 93% of the students are white). At GSU, only 36% of students are White, with 37% being Black or African American according to the Forbes list of America’s Top Colleges.
With the induction of a White Student Union, I think it will not only be a very interesting social experiment, but it will bring to the surface a multitude of uncomfortable racial arguments that we as students will have to address. Is this inherently racist? If so, than is any cultural student union we have inherently racist? What does having a White Student Union say about our college, or rather what does not allowing one say?
From a purely logical standpoint, the White Student Union should be allowed to form and thrive on campus alongside the African Students Association, Indian Cultural Exchange, Chinese Student Association, and over twenty more cultural organizations. To be successful, the founder of the White Student Union will need to devote his time to following the logical basis for his club and not let the strong emotions of those that will undoubtedly protest this club to get to him. The old adage of ‘You are allowed an organization, why are we not?’ is the marketing campaign that is currently being advertised around campus via posted flyers for the WSU.
In the wake of the recent George Zimmerman trail verdict, many in America are outraged and searching for answers to the difficult questions of racial discrimination in the 21st century. This organization has chosen a very interesting time in recent history to form an organization that essentially turns everything you thought about civil rights on its head.
In the end, however, the proposed creator of the new White Student Union is passionate and you cannot fault him for anything that he has not yet done. Besides, it boils down to this: he feels passionate about something, is proud of his heritage, and wishes to join with like-minded individuals in supporting his pride in being of white heritage. Nowhere in that description is there demands for white dominance, ethnic cleansing, or racial segregation. In fact, replace the word ‘white’ with any other ethnicity and you have the basic idea behind every cultural organization on campus. So before anyone can question someone for being proud of their heritage, one must first take all things into consideration.
Once the school year begins and the club is presumably formed, we can take a closer look at what the intentions are, but for now I don’t see any need for outrage. Whether or not this just turns out to be a publicity stunt to stir up students, we can all appreciate the idea of going against social norms and being passionate about something, whether you agree or not. For more information on the GSU WSU, you can check out their website at gsuwsu.wordpress.com and for a more in-depth look at White Student Unions, I recommend you watch the VICE documentary, found at vice.com/vice-news/white-student-union
An Opinion in Opposition of The White Student Union by Terry Harlin
“Hello, my name is Trayvon Martin,” read the t-shirt I saw last week on campus.
I take it the clean cut, spectacled young man wearing it wasn’t suggesting that he himself had been suspended from school three times within a few months, kicked out of his house, or had told friends at 17 that he wanted a gun. And when our Commander-in-Chief lamented that “Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago,” he probably wasn’t implying that he too would have taken down the large Hispanic man and slammed his head repeatedly on the concrete.
For better or worse not too many protestors could possibly be too broken up that this troubled African American teenager lost his life in Florida this Spring. How could they when they are not raising hell about the 800 other black teens killed last year? Or the year before? Or the year before? Would they be if they realized that the vast majority of these kids had also been shot to death by adults?
What of unarmed 16-year old Julius Johnson, killed last year by a man also released on the grounds of self-defense? Or Deandre Felton, one year younger and stabbed to death last fall by a man also released for self-defense? Why does Al Sharpton’s focus remain on Trayvon and not on 1000s of dead youths including many innocent teens and children?
What if George Zimmerman’s gun had jammed and Trayvon had put him in a coma instead? How many reading this are secretly smiling, wishing that had happened? Would not this case have still made national news if Trayvon Martin had then been charged with attempted murder? Of course. Because the issue is not Trayvon’s death but rather Zimmerman’s alleged harassment. Anything short of a complete vindication of Trayvon after Zimmerman’s “stalking” would not have been acceptable, regardless of what kind of unruly juvenile Martin may have been.
If Trayvon had been Hispanic like Zimmerman but dressing and acting like he had on that February night, would Zimmerman have questioned him? Given the zealous watchman’s itchy 911 dial finger history, yes. How about white? Who knows. But white America would have ignored the case even if white media had focused on it. Why? Because whites en masse have not experienced a history of racial profiling as have blacks.
Probably every black man who has not been harassed at one point has a family member that has. Herein lies the issue of contention – a kid was harassed unfairly, now he’s dead. Any black or white lawyer with any modicum of sense realizes that, given the evidence, the verdict rendered was the correct one. It was the same, correct verdict in the 2009 trial of Roderick Scott, the black man whose killing of an unarmed white teenager in self-defense brought no sea of protests or threats by white supremacists.
But a guilty verdict for Zimmerman, no matter how absurd, would have represented justice for some of that segment of Americans who have recently felt the personal sting of racism or whose painful past keeps them from forgetting…or possibly forgiving. While social amnesia may often prove dangerous, forgiving is vital for healing and a necessary step for one to fulfill his or her own ambitions.
So perhaps the very existence of a White Student Union (WSU) may somehow rub salt on wounds that need to heal. Its mission statement is no less noble than the Black Student Alliance’s – and no less divisive. But as the demographic s of GSU have shifted so has the BSA’s role from empowerment and militancy to a more justifiably festive and inclusive role, suitable for a campus with an almost even undergraduate mix of black, non-Hispanic white, and other backgrounds. Much can also be said about the LASA’s cultural endeavors with less emphasis on a political agenda.
What of the agenda of the WSU? What guest speaker would agree to sponsorship by a club with White in its name? To accuse WSU members of racism is prejudicial and, if you belong to LASA or BSU, hypocritical. Yet the 150 year history of organizations designed to preserve “white” heritage has left an unpleasant legacy. Do white students need a unified voice? Are there needs that are not being met? Why not a European cultural club, if the emphasis is indeed on heritage? In the face of a New Black Panther Party that posted a $10,000 “dead or alive” bounty for Zimmerman’s capture, do we truly need a divisive element on a mixed campus that has demonstrated a remarkably civil attitude in discussing troubling matters of race?