Our legacy as a PWI and the responsibility of white folks

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By: The Social Justice Collective

The article “No, SGA Candidates Aren’t Racist” from April 28, 2017 — and campus climate in general — invites white people to think more deeply about Towson University’s own “legacy.” So let’s examine it!

Our legacy is that this campus supported legal segregation until after Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. No Black students were allowed to enroll before then. Our legacy is that our campus used to be in the Harlem Park neighborhood in West Baltimore until anti-black racism drove the white administration to re-locate to the suburbs. Our legacy has protected and continues to protect white interests. Let’s commit as a campus to changing this.

White people at Towson and beyond should study our history, educate themselves, and understand critical race theory’s valuable tools, which can help us to think critically about this history. Another lesson is in how we conceive racism versus discrimination — it’s common knowledge that black people can’t be “racist” because racism by definition means you aren’t of the same identity as the race that holds institutional and social power. “Discriminatory,” “prejudiced” or “biased” would be more accurate. But SGA vice presidential candidate Breya Johnson is not any of those things.

Ultimately, white feelings shouldn’t matter when it comes to working to end racism.

So it has little import whether Johnson was arguing that white feelings shouldn’t matter “right now” or even later. As anti-racism advocates, we ask white people to educate themselves — not on political correctness — but on the tradition of white allyship in the anti-racism movements. There are educated white people who are learning to listen deeply, who are prioritizing foregrounding students of color and faculty of color voices and creating an updated legacy that is not about color blindness, not about ignoring or forgetting this history and not about obscuring our racist past.

As a collective of faculty, staff and students, we would like to see the SGA reflect a new vision for the university — a vision that advocates for the centering of voices and ideas of students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds. We support the growth of an SGA that challenges folks on campus to address their own privilege, to confront privilege and racism through critical discussions about race on and off campus, and to link the present moment to historic and structural issues of inequality in greater Baltimore. This difficult work will allow us to bridge the educational and racial divides so we can heal and transform. We challenge the campus (administration, faculty, staff, students, contract workers and our incoming student government leadership) to learn this history and to step up to deeply engage in respectful dialogues about race and racism.

(The Social Justice Collective is a collaboration of faculty, staff, and students committed to working for social and racial justice on and off campus.)

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