Letter: Why rally under the banner of being white?

Dear White Student Union,

Here at Georgia State we celebrate being a diverse campus community that models the demographic trends our country should reach by roughly 2030.  If you feel under-represented now, just wait; it gets better!  By 2050, non-whites will be the majority in this country, which should bring your siege mentality to a painful head.  My only question, mostly out of curiosity: Why rally under the banner of being white?  We have a Haitian Student Association, a Chinese Student Union, among all sorts of other cultural-based student groups.  Why not explore being German, or Austrian, or some combination of the two that results in blue eyes and blonde hair?  At the very least, lumping all folks with light skin together as one big happy family is a bit hasty, isn’t it?

Actually, the preponderance of academics researching this question, which we’re fond of using at Georgia State, agrees with me.  According to many prominent sociologists and anthropologists, the notion of a white race was constructed and established through oppressive political mechanisms during the early formation of our country and still exists to this day.  Historian and activist Ted Allen (1998) writes: “When, therefore, a group of human beings from “multiracial” (the anthropologists’ term) Europe goes to North American or South Africa, and there, by constitutional fiat, incorporates itself as the “white race,” that is no part of genetic evolution. It is, rather, a political act: the invention of “the white race” (Allen 1998).

Where does that leave membership to your group?  Is it a simple visual check that one is white enough?  Is it a family-tree blood quantum, where members must prove that they are purely white?  Perhaps members must be at least 3/5’s white, so their vote will count?  What about light-skinned Hispanics or Persians? Patrick Sharp, one of your organizers, felt the need to graciously extend an invitation to people of all races in an email to Creative Loafing: “If, for example, a black student came forth who was genuinely interested in the white perspective on things, or pro-white activism, then we’d have no problem welcoming him or her.” While the media ignores black-on-black violence, thousands in India get their skin lightened through bleaching, and the Trail of Tears is given a neat monument in North Georgia, I am sure that people of color have never heard the “white perspective” before.  These are the insidious ways whiteness as a practice is maintained.  People of color everywhere need Patrick Sharp and the White Student Union to enlighten them – desperately.

Apparently we light-skinned folks need enlightening as well. Sharp contextualizes the White Student Union’s work: “[Our] biggest issue that affects white people is our denial of a sense of identity as a people”.  These sorts of sweeping generalizations about multiple ethnicities with light-colored skin actually represent me unwillingly.  I have a firm sense of my identity as a human with Indian, Welsh, and French ancestry.  The last thing I need is for that identity, complex as it is, to be swept in together with people that might look alike.  But perhaps the organizers of this group are simply under-educated about the white race narrative, clearly having not taken introductory courses in sociology or anthropology, and have not had the chance to confront their historically-rooted bigotry.  Or, perhaps they have heard these facts and simply choose to ignore them, continuing in their bigotry. Given their initial tone, however, it is safe to assume they do not want to engage in an open dialogue informed by factual research.  Frankly, as a community that values the quality of students and their ability to engage in critical thinking here at Georgia State, we have no place for that.

Luke Floyd is a senior at Georgia State University, majoring in Speech (Political Communication), and President of the Panther Debate Team.


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