The University of Maryland is facing backlash over a social-justice training that will provide a “safe space,” for white students only, to learn about racial issues.
The controversy revolves around “White Awake,” which has been billed as a new “group for White students to talk about race.” A flyer advertising the group contained a series of questions: “Do you want to improve your ability to relate and connect with people different from yourself?” “Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable and confused before, during, or after interactions with racial and ethnic minorities?” “Do you want to become a better ally?”
The flyer further described the group as a place where white students could have a “safe space” in which “to explore their experiences, questions, reactions, and feelings” and “support and share feedback with each other as they learn more about themselves and how they can fit into a diverse world.”
Not surprisingly, the university has faced a considerable amount of criticism over White Awake, with many arguing that white people don’t need a “safe space.” In response, the school has decided to remove the flyer and announced that it is also “open to” changing the name of the group to something else.
“We agree with the feedback that the flier was not clear enough in conveying the fact that the purpose of this group is to promote anti-racism and becoming a better ally,” the counseling center told Inside Higher Ed. “We didn’t choose the right words for the flier, and we are going to incorporate the feedback we have received into a revision of it.”
Here’s the thing, though: The flyer isn’t really the problem. The counseling center’s statement suggesting that the issue is the flyer’s failure to make it “clear enough” that the group was about “becoming a better ally” is ridiculous considering the fact that the flyer literally asks, “Do you want to become a better ally?” The problem with “White Awake” isn’t the name of the group or its promotional materials — it’s the group itself.
It should seem clear to anyone with a brain that the best way to learn about issues related to other races is to interact with people of other races. Creating a forum to discuss such issues that intentionally excludes non-white people is doing everyone a disservice. The best way to learn about any kind of experience is to learn from someone who has actually gone through it, and this group will have no opportunities for that.
Honestly, I’m having a hard time figuring out why and how this event was ever even pitched. It was obviously intended to be “woke,” but to me, it comes off as incredibly racist. After all, what exactly are the creators suggesting? That white people should be afraid to talk about their feelings in front of people of other races? That that’s somehow an understandably scary thing? If this school thinks it’s necessary to host an event teaching students how to deal with diversity, then that event shouldn’t be one that actually shields students from diversity. I really can’t see how that could be hard to understand.