What the White Student Unions don't get about the recent university protests.
In early November, University of Missouri students protested over what they said was the lack of university response to racially charged incidents on campus.
What started with one student on a hunger strike and the football team walking out of practice and refusing to play in a show of solidarity ended with the university president resigning and the chancellor stepping down.
The students at Mizzou shone a light on racism at American colleges, inspiring hashtags like #blackoncampus and #studentblackout, as well as similar protests across the country.
Unfortunately, whenever movements like these make progress, they also bring out the deniers.
These deniers assert that there's no problem with racial equality. They're often white, they often don't have much experience being aware of their own race until now (when they are being shown their privilege). And they refuse to consider how white people denying the experiences of people of color contributes to the problem.
This is where the so-called "White Student Union" groups came in, popping up on social media last weekend.
They're here to fight the good fight (/sarcasm) against what they perceive as reverse racism.
From the NYU White Student Union (quoted by the New York Daily News):
"When people say that Students of Whiteness don't face any unique challenges or obstacles we should think about this. White students are the only group to be labeled as 'problematic' simply for existing and to have University classes dedicated to attacking their identity. This is why we are reclaiming the word whiteness and not letting the campus thought police define our identities for us."
It is a devastating to feel "problematic" because of your race, and "simply for existing." Yet whoever is behind the White Student Union groups cannot see that this is how people of color feel on a daily basis, mainly at the hands of — you guessed it — white people, whether intentional or not.
And "university classes dedicated to attacking their identity" actually were established so that students could finally learn about American history from the perspective of this country's many racial minorities — from their own cultures — rather than the default "history" classes that teach a white, often male, perspective. Many of these specialized classes exist only because of protesters like the ones demanding racial equality at Mizzou.
The University of Illinois White Student Union went after a larger movement.
The group stated that its purpose is to organize against "the terrorism we have been facing from Black Lives Matter activists on campus," as quoted by MSNBC.
This is the same Black Lives Matter that spotlighted disproportionate police brutality against black people around the nation. The movement that got the two Democratic presidential frontrunners to talk about racial equality. And that have bolstered the Mizzou protests, as well as other college demonstrations.
We're supposed to believe that what they're doing is "terrorism"? Peaceful protesting is not terrorism. Five people being shot by white supremacists at a Black Lives Matter protest is terrorism.
Luckily, the universities are responding in solidarity with students of color.
The University of Illinois said in a statement that it asked Facebook to remove various iterations of the White Student Union pages because of the climate of fear and intolerance they were trying to create:
"The site called for monitoring African American students, and some students are telling us they now feel unsafe."
The NYU Director of Public Affairs took issue with the school's logo being on the page, as the New York Daily News quotes:
"There is no such organization as this at NYU, the Facebook page is using NYU's logo illegally and without permission, and we have contacted Facebook to demand the NYU logo be removed."
And as NYU posted on Facebook:
"An anonymous person or group has started a 'Union of White NYU Students' Facebook page; these kinds of pages have cropped up at a number of universities that have sought to have a real dialogue about race and inclusion. There is no such organization as this at NYU. We call on all parties to contribute thoughtfully and respectfully to the discourse on race and to reject efforts to derail or distort the conversation."
What university wants its name and image associated with people who refuse to acknowledge that racism exists? Especially after the Mizzou protests? Especially after the deaths of so many unarmed black people at the hands of cops?
Maybe this is a PR move, but it's still the right one.
There is good news, though: These groups are likely fake.
After Facebook took down the University of Illinois White Student Union page, some white supremacists put out a call to arms on social media, asking people to create these pages whether they were associated with a university or not.
You can read the complete timeline on Medium, which also points out how these pages that invoke the name of around 30 American universities have almost identical language in their statements of purpose.
It's not just university administrations and Facebook who are not letting these pages stand.
Ordinary Facebook users are calling out the people behind these pages. Either they comment calling the posts "divisive," or they don't Like the pages at all, with many of the still-existing groups garnering only a few hundred Likes.
These pages may have emboldened trolls who deny the existence of racism and white privilege, but they have also motivated others to set them straight. The fight continues. Progress will be made.
And that's something worth celebrating.