This month I had the opportunity to see Shaun King speak at NC State about race and social justice. When I went to sit down, I was pretty ambivalent to what I was going to hear and thought about leaving before his lecture started. At first I thought that because I’m not a person of color, this talk wasn’t really meant for me.
Then I kind of took a step back and recognized my white privilege in this situation, to be able to not have to think about topics like this and to have the privilege to ignore social issues that are so pressing in our country. I realized that I felt uncomfortable because it was something that my white background has always pushed under the carpet and deemed too taboo to talk about, when that should not have been the case.
Herein lies a common problem for many white students: we tend to neglect learning about social justice issues affecting other groups because it “doesn’t affect us.” Therefore, students at NC State, specifically Caucasian students, should continue to attend events about African-Americans and other people of color beyond just Black History Month.
First, NC State hosted a wonderful Black History month with lots of great speakers and events open to the entire community. This article in no way is a criticism on these efforts. However, an ongoing effort within the white student body needs to be made to continue these conversations about social issues and not leave them behind only to be resurfaced next February.
It is very easy to feel disconnected to Black History month as a white person, but that is why it is even more crucial to go to events and speakers so that you do become connected to topics and issues that affect your peers and the community as a whole. As you become educated more on various topics regarding other ethnicities and races, the feeling of ambivalence and indifference disappears as the “ignorance is bliss” argument becomes more invalid as you learn more truth.
Moreover, according to Coshandra Dillard, we need Black History Month so that students can analyze black American history to help us think critically about present-day social issues. The critical thinking skills are what will transform students of today into the leaders of tomorrow.
The effect of not integrating black American history education into what white students know yields uneducated members of society that fuel the institutionalized injustices that run rampant in our nation. For example, people such as Iowa congressional Rep. Steve King are the victims due to lack of diversity education. This can be seen in a New York Times interview where he explained that he learned white supremacy in history class.
“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King said, “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
To avoid creating intolerant, uneducated white people like Steve King, it is imperative that students at NC State must actively continue to try and go to various lectures offered here regarding race and diversity in order to not only educate ourselves but also engage in a conversation that affects all of us. It is crucial for white students, like myself, to learn more so that we can use our privilege to help further the conversation about social issues affecting millions.
Nothing in this world is ever just black and white, especially regarding the history of our nation. Issues that impact the black community and other communities of color also impact white Americans; hence it is important for the Caucasian students of NC State to make an effort to educate ourselves year-round on social issues.