Throughout this month, Elizabethtown college has been the source of controversy, ever since the College Democrats on campus announced that they would be wearing white puzzle piece pins, in order to remind them all of white privilege, and the discussion about it they say is needed on the campus. The college democrats stated in a Facebook post that this was inspired by ECLA pastor Barb Girod who wore a pin herself for a year to “force herself to think about her white privilege”.
Like the pastor, the students stated that the goal of this project was to force the students to focus and think about their ‘white privilege’, “This project, along with ours, forces everybody to think about racial issues people face daily”. The students also mentioned that although they received criticism for the campaign, it was an ‘important’ to start this conversation on race, especially since Elizabethtown is a white majority institution.
I can’t actually think of any benefits of a campaign that goes around and tells students to focus on something completely out of their control for an arbitrary reason, especially since there didn’t seem to be any ‘acts or environment of racism’ that inspired this campaign. Essentially their reason is, white privilege exists, and there are so many white people there.
Elizabethtown College President Carl Strikwerda talked about the campaign in an interview with LNP. He stated that the ongoing discussion of race was extremely important at Elizabethtown, and movements such as these are essential for the student body. When asked if he thought the campaign invited white guilt he said, I don’t like the concept of ‘white guilt’ because race is not the only way in which people have faced obstacles. It’s not very productive to encourage the notion of white guilt. It doesn’t help very much in terms of understanding why race relations are difficult”.
The problem I have with this campaign is that there is nothing prompting it. Since the students have arbitrarily started to wear these pins to remind themselves of their white privilege for no other reason than they believe they have it. There is not a point to the campaign, except to constantly berate themselves on how their ‘whiteness’ causes the world to be shitty for others. No matter what the President of the college says about white guilt, having a constant message directed at them saying that they are inherently well off, is most likely going to breed some guilty feelings sometimes, which is most likely why the students started campaigning in the first place.