Eighteen-year-old Patrick Sharp is only a freshman, but he has already made his mark on Georgia State University. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sharp has announced the formation of a White Student Union at the school. Other Georgia State students have already registered their protests. They should. It’s a bad idea.
Sharp justifies the unofficial campus club as a place where students of European descent can celebrate their heritage, and discuss issues that affect white people, such as immigration and affirmative action. At 38 percent of the student population, whites are the single largest ethnic group on campus. But Sharp contends that since they no longer form an absolute majority, they are now simply a minority among other minorities.
“If we are already minorities on campus and are soon to be minorities in this country why wouldn’t we have the right to advocate for ourselves and have a club just like every other minority?” Sharp asks. “Why is it when a white person say he is proud to be white he’s shunned as a racist?”
That point may seem a reasonable one at first glance. But, I think it overlooks an important and inescapable fact.
Are whites now just another minority group?
Other ethnicities have organized themselves in this country to counterbalance a power structure that has historically favored whites and deliberately put other groups at an unfair disadvantage vis-à-vis the dominant culture. Sharp is implying that whites can and should do the same thing. But the idea that whites as a racial group are now at a similar disadvantage in this country is one that, to say the least, is not widely accepted.
That’s why any attempt to form a group for people who say they are “proud to be white” is bound to be seen by large numbers of people not as an attempt to overcome the effects of prejudice, racism, and discrimination, but rather to perpetuate them. The racist associations that are inherent in the very name of the group are inescapable, no matter what Sharp’s intentions might be.
The name “White Student Union” carries unavoidable baggage
For example, the president of the White Student Union at Towson University, Matthew Heimbach, along with another member of the group, caused a stir at a recent Conservative Political Action Conference. They interrupted a presentation by an African American Republican on what the GOP should do to more effectively reach out to minorities, making statements the Huffington Post characterizes as “advocating for racial segregation and defending slavery.”
Heimbach went on to tell Slate, “With a black face in charge of the White House, of the federal government, we know it’s foreign. We know something isn’t right.”
Whether or not Patrick Sharp and the group he hopes to form actually agree with such sentiments is, in reality, irrelevant to the effect the group will have on the university and the wider community. By naming themselves a White Student Union they deliberately choose to associate themselves with the racist baggage carried by that name.
The fact is that any assertions Sharp may make along the lines of “we’re not like that” will simply not be listened to by most people, any more than the claim of Bradley Jenkins, Imperial Wizard of the United Klans of America, that the KKK is “not a hate group, but a white pride group who respects everyone” is listened to.
Wise counsel for an 18-year-old
There’s another consideration that Patrick Sharp, at 18 years of age, may not yet be aware of. Just by associating his own name with a group that wants only members who are “proud to be white,” he is potentially foreclosing some options for his own personal future.
Jack Hunter, a close aide to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, recently had to resign because of past comments now considered to be racist. As a possible future GOP presidential candidate, Senator Paul simply could not afford to have someone with that kind of baggage on his staff.
Hopefully, someone older and wiser will advise Patrick Sharp that having “president of the White Student Union” on his resume might not be his best career move.