Sunday, December 5, 2010

White Student Union?

There's a clear double-standard going on here.  I don't mind Black Student Unions, because I know it's not really about race, it's about culture.  People want to have a place for people like them on campus, just like D&D nerds have their own club, only sometimes cultures happen to run along racial lines and people see racism where there isn't any.

So why are people who don't mind a BSU complaining about the very idea of a WSU?  I think because the automatic assumption is that a WSU would be all about "white power," "white supremacy," intolerance of non-white races.  Not many people make the same assumption about a Black Student Union, Asian Student Union, or Latino Student Union, etc.  The assumption there is that it is a social club combined with a kind of support group or whatever for people who are the (racial) minority on campus.  As I said, various minorities, and not just racial minorities, have their own similar groups.  Most people aren't into economics, most people aren't very interested in math, and most people don't go horseback riding.  That's why these groups exist.  So people can be around others with a similar interest or similar culture.

A black student who joins a SIG (special interest group) may find he gets along better and has more in common with other members of that SIG than with other black students at the BSU.  Your race does not determine your culture, or interests, etc.

Getting back to a WSU, why does the very idea seem strange or offensive, or even comical, when other racial student unions do not?  Even I would be taken aback if I were strolling through campus and saw an ad for a WSU.  I would immediately assume it was some kind of white power group at worst, or a stunt to make people think, at best.  Why do myself and others react this way?  Is it the assumption that most white people have "white privilege" and thus don't need any kind of support groups or advocates because "the system" is already rigged in their favor?

Is it because of the past mistreatment of racial minorities in this country that causes people to avoid making negative assumptions about BSUs?  I don't think the explanation is a purely political one.  For instance, I wouldn't say that the negative reaction against the idea of a WSU is solely about the fear of raising a much-needed debate about racial quotas, affirmative action, special treatment for "victim groups," etc.  The knee-jerk reaction people have for BSUs and against WSUs can't just be chalked up to liberals vs. conservatives.  I think it runs deeper than that and I think it's primarily about the fear of what a WSU might stand for (racism) rather than for any fear of making people think about race in a way different from the conventional "white privilege" narrative.

Which is not to say that plenty of dishonest people out there know very well what a sham a lot of this "white privilege" talk (I'm still waiting for my white privilege to kick in, any day now.....) is and who want to completely control the debate and do not want people to think honestly about race.  But I'd say most people are motivated against a WSU purely for concerns that anything called a "White Student Union" must be a front for some racist group.

So why does nobody ever complain about such obviously white things as Irish festivals, Scottish festivals, Oktoberfests, Renfests, or for that matter campus groups devoted to Russian, Irish, Anglo, French, German, etc.-descended students or culture?  Is it because they are specific to a particular nationality or ethnicity rather than being a blanket "white" group?  If I say "white pride, worldwide," would everybody shuffle away from me for fear I might try to set a cross on fire, but if I say "Irish pride!" then everybody will cheer and drink a pint of Guinness?  Is it because I'm talking about ethnicity rather than race?  If I proposed a Dutch Student Union, would anybody make the knee-jerk assumption that I'm trying to set up a Dutch nationalist hate group on campus?  I doubt many would leap to that conclusion.

So what is it about a WSU?  I'm really asking, because it's not entirely clear to me.  Is it the history we're taught in school, which (as far as I can remember) still being taught primarily about racial politics?  Is it because we've been trained from a very early age about white oppression so we see everything through that lens?

Another big issue is why do most white people not feel the need to create something like the WSU?  Is it because we're already the racial majority in this country, and that Western European culture and its Americanized descendant is the dominant culture?

I was thinking about a WSU and what exactly would happen there if somebody created one and it was not a hate group of any kind.  What would be its function?  Why would it exist?  What would its members do?  And then I got to thinking about why BSUs and similar groups exist.  What are their functions?  Why do they exist?  What do their members do?  This isn't a hundred years ago, where being lynched was a very real possibility, or where lawyers and political activists needed to gather and secure certain rights.  Those battles have been fought and won.  The economic and educational disparities that exist among many blacks, hispanics, American Indians, and whites, are largely due to cultural disparities (fatherlessness, aptitude to crime, job habits, study habits, dress differences, hygiene differences, all sorts of cultural things that help determine what sort of education credentials, job, income, etc. we'll have), not due to Jim Crow laws or widespread racial discrimination.  For that matter, economist Gary Becker won the Nobel partly for demonstrating that in a competitive market, racism does not determine income disparities.

1 comment:

  1. I think the issue is that "white" is not an appropriate designation, because it is too broad. Because the USA is historically a white-majority country, the population have defined themselves into smaller groupings, because those are the ones that make sense, in terms of self-image and power struggles. So for example homosexuals often say that being gay is fundamental to their identity, but few heterosexuals go on "straight pride" rallies, because being heterosexual is not a distinguishing feature compared to the majority. So because a WSU wouldn't be exclusive enough to forge a separate identity, we assume it would be about white power. It is a bit like in The Simpsons when the children set up a "No Homers" club. What is the possible reason for that club, except an animus against Homer?

    But note that this is specific to USA in 2010. You wouldn't think it unusual for there to be social organisations catering to westerners in third-world countries, because there being western really is a distinguishing identity.