Hi friends, how are you? I hope March is treating you well and that prelims and other commitments aren’t taking your sanity like they are mine. I am writing because well, there is something I need to get off my chest and it is important so I hope that as you read these words, you truly take them to heart. Dear White People, marginalized communities need you. I am sure you’re wondering what I mean by that. Don’t worry, I am about to tell you.
Now, I know The Sun’s official policy now is not to comment or report on the White Student Union, but I just have to say this. While the concept of a White Student Union at Cornell is terrifying and extremely problematic to me, what’s even more terrifying is what appears to be the lack of conversation or outrage about it from people outside of minority or marginalized communities (ie: some white students, the administration, etc.).
When the recent article in The Sun dropped describing where the White Student Union came from, how they were being supported, and what their ideology was, all of my GroupMes immediately started blowing up. In addition, I instantly felt less safe. And if I’m being honest, as a Black female on this on campus, feeling safe is always a tenuous negotiation that changes from moment to moment, classroom to classroom and day to day, because I am never fully sure of how I’m being understood, seen or approached. There’s an added burden of always feeling like I represent my community in all of the spaces I occupy so I need to be on point. Plus, there’s the job of being involved in my community because we’re all in this together and I firmly believe in the concept of lifting as one climbs. In short, my experience is layered, multi-faceted and constantly being negotiated as I go along.
And while I know that people with racist, sexist, white supremacist and other-ist ideologies exist on this campus, it’s very unnerving to think about them coming together. (Is that how y’all feel about BSU? Does the unity amongst Black students or solidarity seen among marginalized student groups at Cornell scare you or threaten your sense of safety on campus?) But I’m giving them too much shine so let me get back to the point of this column.
Dear White People, if you remain silent in the face of racist, white supremacist ideologies, conversations or marches, then you are just as bad as the person engaging in the act. Elie Wiesel said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”
Do not ask me to march with you for a living wage if you will not march with me against racism. Do not ask me to stand with you for gender rights if you cannot and are not willing to try to understand how feminism is a bit different for me due to my status as both female and Black. Do not ask me to join you in the fight for queer rights if you do not care about Black and brown queer people. And when shit hits the fan, just know that if you’re not for us, you’re against us — making you an oppressor in the process. Remember when I said minority communities need you? We need to you speak up and out against organizations that threaten our peaceful and safe existence on this campus because those are your people and my words of condemnation mean little — they simply fuel their fire. Dear White People, it’s time for you to get your mans and don’t you dare claim to not be racist or to be an ally if you’re not willing to check yourself and those in your community publicly and when it counts.
Gabrielle Hickmon is a senior in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gabbing with Gabby appears alternate Wednesdays this semester.