Maureen Wilkey, The Daily Illini (Urbana, Ill.), Nov. 1
“Popcorn! Get your free popcorn!” yelled graduate student Andre Brock on the north end of the Quad on Friday afternoon. But there was a catch: In order to get a full bag of popcorn, customers had to be white males. Females and non-white got only a third of a bag of popcorn as a part of the White Privilege popcorn giveaway on Friday.
The Graduate and Professional Students of Color (GPSC) organized the giveaway in response to an anti-reparations bake sale held last week by Students for Individual Liberty, a libertarian Registered Student Organization. To demonstrate how slave reparations would place an unfair burden on whites, the libertarians sold cookies to black students for 50 cents while white students paid as much as $2 for cookies. However, the GPSC was not giving away popcorn as a pro-reparations action — they were trying to demonstrate how white Americans are given a lot of advantages that minorities don’t have.
“White people don’t have to worry about whether or not their vote is going to be counted, which was a big issue in the last election,” said graduate student Bryana French. “They don’t have to worry about being followed around in a store because someone thinks they are going to steal something.”
Brock, who was one of the organizers of the event, said he was hoping to send a bigger, non-political message in response to the bake sale. He said giving away popcorn would help show how racism affected people.
“White people are affected by racism, too,” Brock said. “We are trying to show how racism is not a personal thing; it’s a systematic, pervasive bias. It is there, but a lot of people don’t realize it or don’t think about it.”
Alex Rubinsteyn, junior in LAS, and his brother Michael walked by the popcorn giveaway on Friday and were somewhat surprised.
“I think it’s pretty absurd,” Alex Rubinsteyn said. “I know that there is some amount of truth in it, but I just don’t see what the point of giving popcorn away is. I don’t really know what it is going to accomplish.”
Michael Rubinsteyn said he understood where the GPSC was coming from.
“I didn’t really understand any of this until I had a black girlfriend,” he said. “She said people always checked her ID when she used her credit card or followed her around in stores to make sure she didn’t steal anything. I’m just not sure how much of it is true.”
Brock said reaction to the popcorn giveaway was mostly good. While many students walked by without noticing the small table, others came by to see what the giveaway was all about and read the brochures that the club offered.
“Some people see what we’re doing and they don’t want anything to do with it,” Brock said. “But overall, people have been very receptive and we haven’t had any negative comments.”