Multiculturalism. Diversity. Two words constantly being pushed in our faces and vocabularies in order to avoid the most uncomfortable word in the English dictionary: racism.
In recent months Towson University has been the headquarters for controversy because of senior Matthew Heimbach’s forming of the White Student Union. Heimbach and members of the student union felt the white culture was being neglected in the university’s effort to recruit and welcome diversity.
Towson officials went on record saying the university had no affiliation with the organization and the group does not reflect the views of the university. The group is protected by the First Amendment, so no matter how radical the ideas are, it has the right to assemble.
Recently, the group has organized a patron patrol in efforts to reduce crime, what it describes on its site as: “Through armed thuggery the money of law-abiding Towson students that is earned by the sweat of their brow is stolen and their lives threatened for simply walking down the street.” They not only blame the crime on the lack of authority but specifically on a “black crime wave.” By patrolling, the group hopes to restore security for all students on the campus.
Just last week, on April 3, hundreds of students and community members rallied on Towson’s campus in an effort to stop the organization’s plans in fear of any further advancements with patrolling and overall presence on the campus.
Matthew Heimbach, president of the WSU, is a former member of the Youth for Western Civilization and the American Third Position Party, both recognized as anti-multiculturalism groups. He is standing up for his organization through all the negative feedback. But with his radical views on race and culture in America today, it makes it difficult to not label the organization as racist.
The concept of WSU is not new. Temple in fact had its time in the spotlight for allowing a white student union to organize in 1988. Though this organization didn’t last, this point of view can exist in any institution no matter the demographic or location.
“Because many believe we live in a post-racial society, a WSU might have come as a shock.”
In America there is a perception that since white culture is the dominant culture, expressing any kind of pride toward it can have negative connotations.
But this pride comes with baggage.
Since much of the non-European history is left out from the media, books and classrooms, student unions and various political and social organizations often form to bond minority groups to feel a sense of pride, even existence. This allows a platform for minorities to speak amongst themselves and eventually a broader audience which they may have not been able to do as individuals.
Because many believe we live in a post-racial society, a WSU might have come as a shock. In reality, racism is still very much present. What the members of the WSU don’t understand is that European history is the only history truly accepted. People of all colors and ethnicities are silenced and forced to adapt to a culture that dismisses their own. Even if minorities are said to be protected by the law, they are still not socially, economically or politically accepted like the majority culture. This nation has yet to heal from its past and it is hard to try with organizations like this.
There is endless coverage, varying from news stories to opinions from all perspectives about the WSU. Though these types of groups may seem surprising at first, we must not look past the crippling institutionalized racism that is oppressing minorities every day. Actually allowing the Black Student Union or any other minority student union at Towson to express its views would have been a contribution to start discussion on the larger issue. It is time minorities are able to speak on their own behalf and not rely on the media to point out who they think the bad guy is.
If we do not desensitize the word racism as a society, organizations such as the White Student Union at Towson will become the new normal.
Saba Aregai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.