By in Politics

Student at Georgia State University wants to form a White Student Union. Bad idea!

Eighteen-year-old Patrick Sharp is only a freshman, but he has already made his mark on Georgia State University. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sharp has announced the formation of a White Student Union at the school. Other Georgia State students have already registered their protests. They should. It’s a bad idea.


Sharp justifies the unofficial campus club as a place where students of European descent can celebrate their heritage, and discuss issues that affect white people, such as immigration and affirmative action. At 38 percent of the student population, whites are the single largest ethnic group on campus. But Sharp contends that since they no longer form an absolute majority, they are now simply a minority among other minorities.

“If we are already minorities on campus and are soon to be minorities in this country why wouldn’t we have the right to advocate for ourselves and have a club just like every other minority?” Sharp asks. “Why is it when a white person say he is proud to be white he’s shunned as a racist?”

That point may seem a reasonable one at first glance. But, I think it overlooks an important and inescapable fact.

Other ethnicities have organized themselves in this country to counterbalance a power structure that has historically favored whites and deliberately put other groups at an unfair disadvantage vis-à-vis the dominant culture. Sharp is implying that whites can and should do the same thing. But the idea that whites as a racial group are now at a similar disadvantage in this country is one that, to say the least, is not widely accepted.

That’s why any attempt to form a group for people who say they are “proud to be white” is bound to be seen by large numbers of people not as an attempt to overcome the effects of prejudice, racism, and discrimination, but rather to perpetuate them. The racist associations that are inherent in the very name of the group are inescapable, no matter what Sharp’s intentions might be.

For example, the president of the White Student Union at Towson University, Matthew Heimbach, along with another member of the group, caused a stir at a recent Conservative Political Action Conference. They interrupted a presentation by an African American Republican on what the GOP should do to more effectively reach out to minorities, making statements the Huffington Post characterizes as “advocating for racial segregation and defending slavery.”

Heimbach went on to tell Slate, “With a black face in charge of the White House, of the federal government, we know it's foreign. We know something isn't right."

Whether or not Patrick Sharp and the group he hopes to form actually agree with such sentiments is, in reality, irrelevant to the effect the group will have on the university and the wider community. By naming themselves a White Student Union they deliberately choose to associate themselves with the racist baggage carried by that name.

The fact is that any assertions Sharp may make along the lines of “we’re not like that” will simply not be listened to by most people, any more than the claim of Bradley Jenkins, Imperial Wizard of the United Klans of America, that the KKK is “not a hate group, but a white pride group who respects everyone” is listened to.

There’s another consideration that Patrick Sharp, at 18 years of age, may not yet be aware of. Just by associating his own name with a group that wants only members who are “proud to be white,” he is potentially foreclosing some options for his own personal future.

Jack Hunter, a close aide to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, recently had to resign because of past comments now considered to be racist. As a possible future GOP presidential candidate, Senator Paul simply could not afford to have someone with that kind of baggage on his staff.

Hopefully, someone older and wiser will advise Patrick Sharp that having “president of the White Student Union” on his resume might not be his best career move.

NOTE: This article replaces one on the Confederate flag. It is posted in this space because attempts to delete the previous article were unsuccessful. The comments relate to the previous article.


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Comments

MelissaE wrote on June 28, 2015, 6:42 PM

That is an excellent point.

morilla wrote on June 28, 2015, 7:45 PM

The problem is that you are thinking one-way on this. If it means "heritage" to them, then it shouldn't make a difference if you knock on the door. What you are doing is actually casting your own biases on them; ASSUMING that it means "hate" in their mind. YOU are 'intimidated.' YOU feel the flag means 'hate.' YOU wouldn't go to the door for help. In this 'experiment,' you don't note how THEY actually feel or react, you simply make an assumption. In a sense, it's the same as saying that if you saw a 'rainbow' flag on the barn that you would assume they are gays and they intend to...

That's part of the problem with all of this furor, assumptions are being made which are not valid. Bear in mind that at the time of the Civil War, depending on your source, only 6% - 33% of Southerners actually owned slaves. Is there still a 'racist' element in the South? Yes. Of course, you can find that in most countries. Are there 'racists' in the 13.2% of the U.S. population which is Black? (Absolutely.) If we don't start dealing with people as 'people/individuals' rather than based on our 'stereotypes,' 'prejudices,' and 'assumptions,' we will never make any, further 'progress' on this or similar issues. Simply calling it a 'survival skill' may be valid in certain circumstances; but, applying that universally is no different than what "others" do as well.

Last Edited: June 28, 2015, 7:47 PM

RonElFran wrote on June 28, 2015, 10:24 PM

The point of the thought experiment is would you, as an African American, risk your life on the assumption that the flag means only heritage? Or would you have reason to doubt it. Furthermore, that the Confederate flag actually triggers bias toward African Americans is not just unsubstantiated opinion. Sociological research shows that just being exposed to the Confederate flag brings out bias against blacks. See http://ronelfran.hubpages.com/hub/Just-Seeing-the-Confederate-Flag-Triggers-Racism-Research-Says

RonElFran wrote on June 28, 2015, 10:25 PM

Thanks, MelissaE.

morilla wrote on June 28, 2015, 10:47 PM

I'm not going to get into a back and forth about the research. Let's just say that there are some 'issues' with both the method and the conclusions.

Just like the premise that you are potentially "risking your life" to knock on the door to see if you can use the phone in an emergency is a very loaded and bias stereotype. Which was my point. Remember, for some whites, it is felt that they are "risking their lives" to knock on the door of a black home. I can think of a lot of other 'signals' which would be much more persuasive to many that a given household may not be the 'best' place to knock on the door. In other words, if the premise is that you would be "risking your life" because you saw a Confederate flag without knowing what it means to the owners, then you're already working from a presumption and prejudice.

The issue is how do we start working with each other, not what YOU feel at a given moment based on YOUR perception of something which may or may not mean what YOU think, based on YOUR biases, to the individuals who own or exhibit it? In other words, based on whatever rationale, you are exhibiting the same type of 'prejudice' you claim to 'fear' and excoriate.

BarbRad wrote on June 28, 2015, 11:26 PM

I honestly don't know. I've never lived in the South. I think we all fear certain things that seem might represent danger to us. For me, it's avoiding certain parts of town which have more crime that other parts of town. I don't walk alone in the park just before dark anymore as I used to because vandals are known to hang out there-- perhaps the same vandals who broke into my house last year. Ultimately we have to use our best judgement and trust God to take care of us even in the valley of the shadow of death. There is a house not far from me that has signs I might agree with but I'm told the people in that house are dangerous. None of their neighbors dares to set foot on their property. When I was walking precincts, the next door neighbors of that house warned me not to go there. I think a lot depends upon the individual. I'm a Yankee. So would a Confederate flag signal danger for me? I don't know.

cmoneyspinner wrote on June 29, 2015, 11:55 AM

My car broke down one time and I didn't have a cell phone. I was in a rich “white” neighborhood. One of those ritzy areas in Miami, Florida. What was I to do? Couldn't just sit there! Got out of my car and started walking, trying to decide which door to knock on. It was broad daylight but I still didn't feel safe. Finally stopped at “A house”. Why that house? Because I saw some brothers working on the yard. The owners weren't even at home. Saw the garage door up. Was hoping they might have a phone. And …??? And … figured the black guys weren't gonna shoot me and would likely help a sister in distress! Turns out there was a phone. What a relief! True story.

{ P.S. I still don't have a cell phone. :) }

Kasman wrote on June 29, 2015, 3:44 PM

I would also keep walking. No matter how much some people protest to the contrary that flag has connotations of race hatred and violence towards black people

Kasman wrote on June 29, 2015, 3:48 PM

Rightly or wrongly it is the perception which counts. In this instance I would keep walking just as i would keep walking past a house which had a man sitting on the porch with a shotgun across his lap. He may be harmlessly cleaning it but I would not be willing to take the chance

msiduri wrote on June 29, 2015, 7:05 PM

I would keep walking. I'd probably keep walking if I weren't black, male or 25. Frankly, my accent is going to nail me as a damnyankee.

morilla wrote on June 29, 2015, 11:23 PM

The question is: "How far down that road do you want to go with regard to 'perception' being what counts?"

What would be the next 'symbol' to go? Where does that leave Freedom of Speech, the Press, the right to keep and bear arms, et al.? Can someone truly be held responsible for the 'perceptions' of others if those perceptions are based on prejudices, biases, a misunderstanding of the culture, etc.? If 'perception' is what counts, then why are people who 'perceive' a threat to their lives and the lives of others met with the full weight of the Government's power and taxpayers' dollars by being investigated and/or prosecuted for 'defending' themselves against that perceived threat?

If the man sitting on the porch with the shotgun doesn't have it pointed at you and hasn't said anything, why would you assume he is going to shoot you? Do you intend stepping on his property without asking his permission or explaining your need? Do you feel that it's all a conspiracy and the Sheriff/Police will cover up the 'racist' murder because "all" of the South is still "that way?" What, exactly, is the basis of that assumption/perception on YOUR part?

Kasman wrote on June 30, 2015, 2:48 PM

I'm not holding anyone responsible for my perceptions but how I/we perceive a situation dictates how we react to it. We may be wrong but the reaction (whatever it is) is still valid because it is our view.

Last Edited: June 30, 2015, 2:49 PM

morilla wrote on June 30, 2015, 9:24 PM

Except, in this context, you are holding the flag owner 'responsible.' Whether you want to acknowledge that or not is the real 'thought experiment.'

JohnRoberts wrote on July 4, 2015, 1:05 AM

Where does it end? I take your point on the stars and bars. But how do you think a white person in that same scenario feels when it's a Black Panther "protecting" a polling place? How about all the Mexican flags that fly in rooting against Team USA in soccer by the immigrants welcomed with open arms to our country? If the stars and bars disappears completely, nothing will change and you are fooling yourself to think it'll make a difference. We live in a world where a stars and bars cake decoration is refused but that same baker said yes to an ISIS symbol on a cake. Where does the banning and burning end? When American becomes like 1930s Germany?

Ruby3881 wrote on July 6, 2015, 12:40 PM

Coming from a different background, I really can't relate to the feelings people have about the Confederate flag on anything but an intellectual level. But I know how I felt about neighbours in Quebec who flew a fleur-de-lys! I certainly wouldn't have wanted to approach such people for help if I didn't speak French, and I imagine the situation for the African-American seeing a Confederate flag is much more intense.

VinceSummers wrote on July 6, 2015, 3:02 PM

I view flags as objects of reverence, and hence, worship. So I have nothing to do with them, though I don't show disrespect toward them.

DWDavisRSL wrote on July 16, 2015, 4:20 PM

The point you make may be valid, if you've never lived in South Carolina or any part of the South. Chances are, white or black, if the 25 year old is dressed decently and doesn't look like a gangbanger from Detroit, the white farmer (you are assuming the farmer is white, which is usually but not always true when you see that flag down here) will probably let you call for help and maybe even pull your car to the farm and offer you a cold soda or a bite to eat. At least he might have before the latest anti-flag campaign. Now that farmer might suspect that your 25 year old African American male is there to set fire to his barn and attack his family. For you see, stereotypes go both ways.

Last Edited: July 16, 2015, 4:47 PM

DWDavisRSL wrote on July 16, 2015, 4:44 PM

Not until I read your HubPages article and visited your profile page on that site was I aware the you are originally from Chattanooga. Your scenario gave me to believe you may not be familiar with the rural south. My apologies for that. Still, I stand by the point I made in my earlier comment based on my own experiences growing up in eastern NC.

DWDavisRSL wrote on July 16, 2015, 4:47 PM

RonElFran , I clicked on your link and read your Hub. It was very well written and researched. I left a comment, and I also followed you on HP. I look forward to reading many more of your posts here on PP and Hubs on HP. It is always a pleasure to make the acquaintance of an educated and thoughtful person such as yourself here in the virtual jungle.