White Student Union: On-Time or Wrong Time?

Ami Dudley, The Signal, July 26, 2013

“IT’S TIME”, states the banner in large bold font on the home page of Georgia State’s newest, and what may prove to be, most controversial organization.  This fall, our campus will welcome its first White Student Union, which will no doubt be one of the grand center pieces of prepped conversation spreads. While taking its place amongst several “ancestrally inspired” organizations, its fit will be a tight one–if not for it’s sheer rarity, then for what some call its untimely arrival in the wake of a verdict that has left emotions high and reasoning amuck. Given the precedents, 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 Towson 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 Towson (a school where 93% of the students are white). At GSU, only 36% of students are White, while 37% are 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, then 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

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