March 23, 2016

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Rejecting Racism at Cornell

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Re: “Aided by White Nationalist Groups, Union of White Cornell Students to Release Demands, Host March,” News, March 18

To the Editor:

I am writing on behalf of myself and members of the Cornell Employee Assembly. I was recently approached by one of my constituents who was concerned about an article in The Cornell Sun highlighting the “Union of White Students at Cornell.” After reading your article and their page, I too am alarmed by the manifestation of white privilege and ignorance attributed to the Cornell community.

This kind of racist publicity negatively impacts our current and prospective students, staff and their families. Subsequent coverage has further boosted the group’s message. I have found articles, many referencing The Cornell Sun, in the Ithaca Voice, The College Fix, The Daily Pennsylvanian, The Ithacan, The Daily Caller and The Tab; as well as on Reddit, blogs, forums and more. Whether or not the initial group was started by members of the Cornell community, its impact is very real. Harm has been done, and it needs to be addressed clearly, directly and with action.

Groups like this use flawed logic to justify positions of white supremacy. White is not a race, but a collection of people given preference based upon skin color. When we consider history, it is clear that groups like this are not working towards equality. They are already, as a group, in a position of power. At best, they are perpetuating the status quo of a privileged white society. Based on this, when groups talk about “advancing the white race,” what that means is advancing white power. They are seeking to preserve and expand an unfair advantage that comes at the continuing expense of people of color.

We embrace and value our diversity, work actively to promote equality and understanding, and want our University to feel safe and welcoming to people of all ethnicities. We feel that remaining silent at this point would serve only to reinforce the message of this group. That is why we have to take action.

The EA has drafted a resolution that is in part a declaration of opposition, explicitly denouncing this group and its views as detrimental to the University’s commitment to extending its legacy of recruiting a heterogeneous faculty, student body and staff; fostering a climate that doesn’t just accommodate differences, but engages with them; and providing rich opportunities for learning from those differences.

Our resolution is also a call to action. We will be working with diversity groups to ensure that we, as representatives of our staff, have a better understanding of and more training regarding racism, its historical impact and the ways in which we can support the University’s commitment. We will be reaching out to other Assemblies on campus to encourage them to do the same.

I ask that you join us. Help us boost our signal. Together, we can overwhelm attempts to create fear and division on campus with a positive message. Together, we will lead by example and find new ways to promote the values of and efforts toward true equality that make Cornell such an amazing place to work, study, play and live.

Jeramy A. Kruser, Employee Assembly Representative at Large