Warren Blumenfeld shows the absurdity of a new trend.
Imagine this: Today is your first day at college. You have been looking forward to this day ever since you can remember. You feel the excitement of living away from home for the first time with the expectation of experiencing new people and new adventures. Your feelings are tinged, though, with a nagging and constant anxiety from which you cannot seem to escape. For quite some time, except with your family and other close family members, you have held a secret deep within the recesses of your soul. Here in your new college home environment, you don’t yet know whom you can trust.
Can you tell your dormitory roommate, and if you do tell, what will happen to you? Will your roommate tell others? Will you be thrown out of your room, or even worse, will you have to leave school? Though your parents share your secret, if you are thrown out of college, will they cut you off financially? And what about your prospective professors and classmates; if they find out, how will they react?
Does your school have any resources and support systems for you? What if anything does your school have available to make your transition to college less worrisome and more supportive? Overall, what will campus life hold for you?
You have known for as far back as you can remember, since you understood how your society constructs the concept of “race,” that you are white. Because you live in a hometown and a larger society that does not understand or even rejects your so-called “racial identity,” you hide away in a closet of denial and dread fearing to come out into the light of day. Now you have a chance to make a new start at college in your home away from home.
These are the reasons you decided to attend this particular college in this particular state. Back when you were researching possible campuses to attend, you came across an article in the newspaper talking about a new trend emerging on college and university campuses around the country: the White Student Campus Center, sometimes referred to as the White Student Union on such campuses as California State University at Davis and the University of California at Berkeley and at Los Angeles.
According to the U.C. Berkeley White Student Union Facebook page before Facebook took it down:
“We welcome students of European descent (and allies) to follow and contribute to the UC Berkeley White Student Union….European-American students on college campuses face unique and immediate challenges that are ignored or even actively denied in today’s cultural climate.”
Wow, as I read these words, tears came to my eyes thinking of the possibilities I could have been afforded if a White Student Center had been organized back when I was an undergraduate student. And I remembered the very “unique and immediate challenges” I was compelled to face: the term paper I chose to write critiquing apparent racism in Huckleberry Finn, the concert I attended for my Ethnomusicology course featuring Southeast Asian instruments, and the book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which I read for my senior level Sociology and Race course. Oh the challenges, the sheer horror of having to tap into my critical thinking skills in contexts other than the white cannon in the standard curriculum.
Then I continued reading the Berkeley Facebook page:
“We unapologetically provide a safe space for white students to air their true feelings about the future of our nation, discuss and reflect on the lessons laid down for us by our great European writers, philosophers, and artists, and develop a positive program to restore the pioneering will and greatness of our unique and virtuous people.”
Yes, now students will finally be given access to the great and noble white people who started and fought wars, colonized other nations and its people, extracted their resources, imposed European cultures, and forced upon others their religions and languages.
Just think of it, with the emergence of White Cultural Centers we can venerate the good old times of the Euro-centric monocultural university where white washing was the order of the day, where students could eat delicious and highly nutritious processed American cheese in the campus cafeteria throughout the day, and where the songs Elvis Presley appropriated from black blues artists and repackaged for a white audience will blare over the audio systems in dining halls and elevators throughout the campus.
I continued reading the Berkeley cite:
“We affirm the dignity and ancestry of our proud people who have gifted the world with countless works of beauty, science, and wisdom, and are committed to promoting a dialogue and political resistance that will secure a future for our posterity and spirit.”
“Political resistance,” wow finally! I can now breathe easier knowing there is a bright tomorrow for white people, where we will no longer have to consider our white privilege – hey, what white privilege? I had been fearful that the way things had been going for us white folks lately, in two or maybe three years hence, we would see our culture and our race falling onto the endangered species list. Now I can rest assured. Whiteness and white supremacy will continue long into the future, even after I have passed away into that great whiteness in the sky. Though I am Jewish and I don’t believe in him, maybe I will see cute white Jesus resplendent with his high cheek bones and flowing blond hair.
The White Student Centers on publicly supported institutions of higher education can now sponsor programming for white students so they can finally be given the option of finding and meeting one another, invite to their campuses white scholars to present information on the white European experience, and help to diversify the curriculum by assisting those educators who so choose to include critical issues in white studies. They can also establish White Speakers Bureaus and train white students to talk about their experiences in classrooms on request in order to counter the stereotypes, the scapegoating, the fear, and the ignorance surrounding their lives.
Because of the new White Student Centers that we witness emerging, possibly we will see greater understanding of our white lifestyles. With this understanding, we might find fewer and fewer young people having to live in a closet of fear, we might see fewer hate crimes against white students on account of their race, and we might find greater chances for students to concentrate more on academics rather than on physical and emotional racial safety concerns. We might also find as a result of these groundbreaking White Student Centers, closer family relationships, greater chances for career success for white people, and overall, a new generation experiencing greater feelings of self-esteem and developing positive white identities at earlier ages than ever before.
Oh yes, these Centers are certainly on the right track! They are redressing the long and tragic history of oppression, marginalization, disenfranchisement, and victimization since the establishment of this great nation against all white European-heritage people.
These Centers are on the cutting edge by working to take our institutions of higher learning back to those halcyon days of the mid-19th century where universities opened their doors only to the sons of the white elite and wealthy, before the time when educators came up with the wacky and horrific notion of expanding the curriculum to include other than European-heritage voices, before educators concerned themselves with providing their students an education that would equip them to live and function in a diverse and continually changing world.
Oh yes, White Student Centers are providing a great service, and all schools need to take note, or they will be left behind this new and exciting trend backward that will have far reaching implications.
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