Monday, December 6, 2010

Are "Black Student Unions" Racist?!?

One of the many perks of attending an HBCU was the momentary escape from institutional racism. After going to a rural high school that had its own closet full of racial skeletons, the last thing I wanted to do was pay (handsomely) to be discriminated against. My college experience wasn't perfect (ie: W. Kerr Scott Hall... Google it) but at least that was one less thing to worry about.

Apparently, the knife cuts both ways. Sorta kinda.
Controversial fliers announcing the formation of a White Student Union on West Chester University's campus were allegedly part of an effort to connect those are who against racism and are not the seeds of a racist organization, according to school officials.

The flier states:

Feeling under represented on campus?

Looking for a place to share YOUR views?

Uncomfortable in other "special interest" groups?

Then this is the place for you!

The flier invites interested students to the club's first meeting. It also includes a photo of seven fists in the air.

At least one student posted the fliers throughout campus over a 48-hour period this week, which officials then removed, according to Pam Sheridan, university spokeswoman.

At least one student posted the fliers throughout campus over a 48-hour period this week, which officials then removed, according to Pam Sheridan, university spokeswoman.

"There is absolutely no White Student Union here," Sheridan said. "There absolutely isn't going to be a meeting."

Seeing the fliers, students and others raised concerns over the possibility of a racist organization on campus, Sheridan said. The Campus Client Intervention Team, which addresses acts of intolerance or bigotry, conducted an investigation. The examination revealed that the fliers were actually posted to promote anti-racism, Sheridan said.

"It wasn't meant to be harmful," Sheridan said. "It was designed to draw anti-racists together, to get a sort of reaction."

West Chester University has roughly 14,000 students. About 15 percent of WCU students are minorities.

Some students are open to a comparable version of the Black Student Union for white students — if the group allows anyone to join and serves a non-racist purpose.
Around the time I was attending my HBCU, I also recall a statewide incident at the University of North Carolina. Black students there were fed up with what they saw as second class treatment on campus, and when trying to establish their own black student union, met lots of resistance from both administration and fellow students. In a show of solidarity, the black student group even tried to get NBA All-Star Michael Jordan to come back to campus on their behalf (I'll let you guess how that ended).

In my infinite 19 year old wisdom, I was thinking "That's what they seditty, lookin'-down-on-black colleges a$$es get for going to Carolina. What did they expect?" Ultimately, the black folks prevailed, and got a permanent place on campus for stepshows and 2-6's cultural enlightenment and advancement of the cause. Still, I can't quite say I ever understood the point of a BSU. I mean, you sorta know what you to expect going in. Why get all demanding after the fact?[1]

All that said, I can sorta kinda understand why some white folks on the West Chester campus might see a BSU as unnecessarily exclusionary. That would obviously be a shortsighted sentiment, because I'm sure minority students at such schools establish these clubs to create a place/feeling of belonging. I sorta get it, and I also sorta get why someone in the majority on campus might not get it.

Watching "minorities" purposely self-segregate makes some people nervous, even in postracial America. But that doesn't mean these black folks are in there plotting ways to overthrow the school and convert it into Lincoln University. They're prolly just talking about Phaedra's alien baby, or comparing notes on that new Kanye album. Nothing earth-shattering, and certainly (despite what others might thing) nothing exclusionary.

I'm not sure what the unknown "activists" at West Chester were trying to get at, but I doubt it was anything remotely close to "promoting anti-racism".

Of course, I went to an HBCU, so this is all foreign language to me. What ya'll think?

Question: Are Black Student Unions "racist"? What was the point of the fliers at West Chester?

[1] Granted, not the most progressive train of thought. But I was just a teenager. I had an excuse at least.

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