The last few days have been overrun with conversation, debate, and rumors surrounding the posting of “White Student Union” fliers advertising a start up meeting around campus, and rightfully so; I understand the concern and implications of such a posting, and the stigma associated with wording of that sort. However, I also recognize the double standard that seems to exist, and I’m officially calling it out. Hypothetically, the existence of a “Black Student Union” validates the existence for a “White Student Union.” Despite the elimination of the double standard currently being supported by this University, I strongly believe that it would create divisions among students that would signify a huge step backward in terms of race relations. To be completely fair, and to keep the direction of race relations moving forward instead of back, neither “Student Union” should be allowed to exist.
By allowing a “Student Union” specifically for black students, the University is allowing individuals to separate themselves from their fellow students of other races, effectively creating a segregated student body. I am aware that “Black Student Unions” are a precedent at almost every University in this country, and this is NOT a condemnation of the good work that they do in the community and to benefit those involved in their activities. However, at the risk of being called politically incorrect, this University should take steps to be the first to eliminate the existence of such an organization, and thus end an era where black students feel the need for a specialized “Student Union” to represent their interests.
In their support for the existence of a “Black Student Union,” West Chester University is reinforcing the idea that the student body is separated by race. The effort to improve our Campus Climate results, and to recognize and represent the black student body would be made more efficient by eliminating such an organization. The students in this organization have thoughts that matter. Let’s make sure that we hear them by encouraging their involvement in the Student Government Association. This country has its share of racial tension; there is no debate on that topic. However, by separating themselves from everyone else, by declaring themselves separate from the rest of the student body, this outdated organization has the potential to create many more tensions than it solves.
Consider this: Morgan Freeman, in an interview with 60 Minutes, was asked what he thought of “Black History Month.” His reply? That it was “ridiculous.” He went on to add that he was insulted by such a notion…that his history was being relegated to a month, when there is no “White History Month” or “Jewish History Month.” He went on, pointedly proclaiming, “I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.” Later in the interview, when asked how to get rid of racism, he replied “Stop talking about it…I’m going to stop calling you a White man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a Black man…I know you as Mike Wallace (the reporter), and you know me as Morgan Freeman.”
These words, while they are an example of what we should be doing every day, apply to the situation here at West Chester University just as viably – putting labels on student groups according to race damages the social fabric of the student body and encourages racial tension. I do not want a “White Student Union” at my University, but I resent the implication that a “Black Student Union” is somehow different.
We’re all humans pursuing higher learning at a well respected institution; we shouldn’t have to create identities based on racial barriers to categorize ourselves outside of that. West Chester should take the steps to recognize this and encourage all students to participate in the Student Government Association – an organization designed to benefit the University population as a whole, rather than just a portion of it. The Student Government, in turn, should take steps to make sure that it doesn’t miss anyone’s input when the time comes for it to be given.
The pursuit of leadership by those members of the “Black Student Union” is admirable, but it would be far more valuable for the students of West Chester if that enthusiasm were funneled into a collective organization designed to improve the college experience for students of all races. I know I’m going to take a lot of criticism for this article, but I also know that we move forward by working together, not separately
Daniel Ream is a third year student at West Chester University majoring in English education. He can be reached at DR729079@wcupa.edu.