On March 28, UCSB’s White Student Union held its “International White Male Thanksgiving Day,” (IWMTD) or at least that was what was promoted on its Facebook page. Out of the 47 people invited, only six people were listed as “Going.” According to its infographic, IWMTD is the opportunity to “thank white males for all their gifts to mankind.”
Just in case you aren’t sure of what these gifts are, five examples are listed, such as “The invention of civil rights and freedoms, and their generous concession of them to non-whites and women.” Nothing says “I don’t see you as my equal” more than when you think that giving someone something they are entitled to as “generous.” If the examples aren’t enough to convince you to go, then maybe the smiling white dude giving you a thumbs up and saying, “You’re welcome, bro!” will.
I’ll be honest, seeing things like this baffles me. Since when were white European male contributions to the world overlooked? We encounter white people’s contributions every day, with the things we read, use and discover. Personally, I think it’s selfish for a club to want to draw attention away from what nonwhite races have provided for society and what they have in store for the future. It’s not a competition.
At the very least, white students in college shouldn’t generalize a club as a “White Student Union.” When you are in high school, and there are only 20 members of a race enrolled, it makes sense to use an ambiguous term like “black.” But with college you aren’t confined to such small numbers. College allows for distinction, which means an individual can appreciate the uniqueness of their particular ethnicity and its culture, rather than the race they are labeled under. For example, UCR has a Caribbean Student Union and a Nigerian Student Association, along with others. While they could be lumped under the term “black,” it would be ignorant to think that the two cultures are exactly the same.
Why couldn’t UCSB do the same? Why not have a German club along with a Norwegian club? By blanketing everyone with the term “white” you only prove one point — that a club for white people exists. But a club should be about the specialness or celebration of a culture and that’s much harder to do if each culture isn’t given its own voice.
But really, we don’t need UCSB’s White Student Union to hold a day to appreciate white males’ contributions to society, because we already do that.
The majority of the curriculum studied in the public school system for subjects like science and literature come from white males. For most of us, we learn about people of color (POC) primarily through our history classes. But instead of being taught about the gifts they’ve given to society, we come to know them through the suffering they endured through various forms of oppression — like colonialism. How else are we supposed to learn about POC if not through school? That’s right — with things like minority clubs that offer race appreciation events.
Most importantly, a club solely for minorities should never be seen as an act of exclusion to white people — which they often see it as. Often these clubs welcome white people to join their club, like the Black Student Union in my high school did.
Clubs for minorities are the chance for people of the same race to bond, like other clubs are for bonding over a shared hobby or interest. It is the opportunity to acknowledge the value of a particular race, because unlike those of European descent, we haven’t been required to learn in school what nonwhite people have positively contributed to the world. History hasn’t been kind to minorities, but that does not make any of these races inferior to whites. A minority club is the opportunity for POC to celebrate where they come from. It is the chance to wear their identity proudly.
Even if their members think otherwise, white student unions perpetuate the outdated belief that POC are undeserving of racial pride.