Issues Are Only Issues When They’re White

OMARI GARRETT — It has been repeated in some conversations that spaces such as La Fuerza, OUTLOOK and the BSU are divisive; that these organizations do not need to exist. It’s also been said that since there is no need for a white student organization or a men’s organization, then there is no need for a Black Student Union, OUTLOOK or La Fuerza. These organizations are seen as undermining equality.

However, Blacks and whites are not equal. Being Black does not only mean being a minority. There are consequences. Let’s think for a moment about how issues that affect Black and white people differently.

Guns for example. When white people assemble to address gun violence it is welcomed; space is made, streets are closed and political officials show up. This is not the case for young Black folk who protest. Organizations including BLACK LIVES MATTER and Black Youth Project 100 regularly organize against state sanctioned violence, and on each occasion they are met with brutal force from local, state and on some occasions federal force. It was during the March For Our Lives event where I continued to ask myself, whose life?

When Black folk assemble and mobilize the response includes tear gas, telecommunications are jammed with military grade equipment and mine-resistant armored vehicles. Black youth, though, have never been welcome to the same treatment as their white counterparts. After the Civil War in 1865, southern states adopted laws to maintain white supremacy known as the Black codes. One thing these laws did was effectively disarm Black people.

We may think of gun advocates as white hillbillies with a sadistic love for guns, but this simply is not the case. In 1967, Black Panthers began cop watching to deter over-policing of Black communities, and in response the Mulford Act was produced to disarm them. The law would repeal one’s legal ability to open carry weapons. On May 2, 1967 to protest the Mulford Act, Black Panthers, lead by Bobby Seale, entered the California state house armed with 12 gauge shotguns and .357 magnums. They were staunch gun advocates. What did they get for this? Death. The party would come to an end with many of its members being murdered by the FBI’s COINTELPRO.

When we are thinking about gun violence, do we talk about how it affects communities differently? Media outlets rarely label white terrorists as terrorists, instead white terrorists are labeled mentally unstable. Yet, we fail to recognize gun violence against Black folk as gun violence. When we’re talking about gun violence, we’re talking about Aiyana Stanley Jones, Eric Garner and Sandra Bland. More, the perpetrators of these murders rarely face justice, in large part because the act they committed is not recognized as murder, but collateral damage as agents of the state maintain order.  

So, there is an obvious difference in the experiences of white people and Black people. Not only that we have different cultures, in the BSU, Black students come together to recognize and affirm one another; to bond in a shared experience, something unnecessary for whites. When Black people have issues, we don’t get large stages to voice our issues. The BSU is a space for students to come together, organize and mobilize on the issues impacting Black folk.