White Student Union

Freshman Patrick Sharp is attempting to start up a “White Student Union” at Georgia State University. Not surprisingly, this has been met with some resistance and complaints by other students. Sharp, however, equates his group with other multicultural associations such as the Black Affairs Council at the University of Georgia.

Would you support a group with the following mission statement?

The White Affairs Council (WAC) of the University of Georgia serves to assist the University in meeting the needs of the White student body. WAC works to preserve, enhance, examine, and celebrate White culture at the University of Georgia. To these aims the White Affairs Council shall encourage cultural diversity, articulate the concerns of White students, and cultivate relationships with other student organizations and the Athens-Clarke County community.
Objectives

  • Encourage cultural diversity on campus
  • Articulate the concerns of White students
  • Be a champion for racial awareness and equality to support other White student organizations
  • Educate others about the Caucasian-American culture
  • Maintain a relationship with the Athens-Clarke County community

The above statement is actually the Black Affairs Council’s mission statement, with the only changes being substituting the word “White” for “Black” and “Caucasian” for “African”. What this is intended to demonstrate is the extent to which we voluntarily place ourselves into groups based on our race.

Interestingly, our desire to self-segregate is deeply ingrained in our culture. The study African American and European American Children in Diverse Elementary Classrooms examined attitudes of third and fourth graders. The composition of the classrooms studied ranged from a white student majority to a black student majority. None of the questions asked of the children had anything to do with race, and simply focused on who was popular, who the kids friends were, and who was more likeable.

The findings were surprising. Having white friends decreased a black student’s “likability” in the eyes of other black kids. Black children who self-segregate in elementary school were more popular then black kids who have white friends. Black children were socially rewarded for their self-segregation. In contrast, self-segregation hurt white kid’s popularity. It was socially desirable for a white kid to have a black friend. As a result, black students were more popular overall.

What was more surprising was that this tendency for black self-segregation actually increased when black kids were in the majority. It became even more socially undesirable for black students to have white friends. Therefore, the trend cannot be explained by simply saying a minority group wants to band together. There must be definitive cultural differences that ingrain these subconscious attitudes in young children. If this can be extrapolated to the example of student unions, being a white person in a white student union would actually hurt ones social standing in the eyes of other whites. Conversely, being black and in a black student union would help one’s social standing. The underlying question is, why?

Additional Resources

African American and European American Children in Diverse Elementary Classrooms: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3169752/

Georgia State University, Student Organizations, Cultural/Multicultural: http://gsu.orgsync.com/

Multicultural Services and Programs, Black Affairs Council –BAC: http://msp.uga.edu/stuorgs/bac.html

The Black Student Union at SFSU Started It All: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/The-Black-Student-Union-at-SFSU-started-it-all-3274175.php

WSB Radio, Student Forms White Student Union at Georgia State: http://www.wsbradio.com/ap/ap/georgia/student-forms-white-student-union-at-georgia-state/nY9qz/

Multicultural Services and Programs, Asian American Student Association—AASA: http://msp.uga.edu/stuorgs/aasa.html

Multicultural Services and Programs, Hispanic Student Association—HAS: http://msp.uga.edu/stuorgs/hsa.html

Reinforcing and Cross-Cutting Cleavages: http://desart.us/courses/3180/cleavages.html

Race Report, Large Schools Promote Racial Self-Segregation: http://racereport.com/large-schools-promote-racial-self-segregation/

The Daily Beast, By Third grade, Black Students Who Self Segregate Are More Popular: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/blogs/nurture-shock/2009/09/10/by-third-grade-black-students-who-self-segregate-are-more-popular.html

Just Connect, Race and the Misnomer of Self-Segregation: http://justconnect.umich.edu/forum/race-and-misnomer-self-segregation

The Dartmouth, Despite Efforts, Self-Segregation Persists at College: http://thedartmouth.com/2004/05/19/news/despite

 

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