Why Black Student Unions Are Necessary and White Student Unions Aren’t

My high school in the mid-70s had a diverse student body. It was majority white with significant numbers of Hispanic, African-American, Asian and Filipino students, plus a smaller number of Americans from other heritages.

The school had a lot of clubs to join, including the Black Student Union. I was one of the ignorant fools who wondered why there was no White Student Union. I look back on it now and understand.

The support and sense of belonging that club members enjoyed by being part of the Black Student Union was the same support and sense of belonging that I enjoyed just by being a student at that high school. Seen in that light, the whole school was a white student union as far as I was concerned. And where students of color needed to create clubs (like the BSU), I was automatically a member of a club ready made for people who look like me: the high school itself.

This isn’t to say my years in high school were a cake walk. My mom died a few months before my freshman year started. I got bullied and beaten up (always at the hands of white students). I spent three years watching others have a string of boyfriends or girlfriends, but it wasn’t until I was a senior that a girl at my high school said she’d consent to be my girlfriend. I also had some wonderful times in high school, almost all of which revolved around being in band and having friends among the band geeks.

My high school band in the early 70s, with my older sister on the far left of the top row. (Source)

Yet I never felt my skin color required I find a special place where I would be welcomed, where I would belong. Because I am white I belonged automatically at that school. My classmates who are people of color did not have that same privilege so they formed clubs like the Black Student Union.

I wish I’d understood that at the time.

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6 Responses to Why Black Student Unions Are Necessary and White Student Unions Aren’t

  1. Kevin Mason says:

    I prefer to identify people by blood type rather than skin color; O, A, B or AB, and we can also sub-classify by Rh factor; positive or negative. People can then form club based upon their blood types. There can be four different groups (8 if the Rh factor is included).

    Also, news reports would sound like this, “One type O and two type A people created a disturbance at a local mall where onother type O person was struck by one of the type A persons. The three were detained and the type A person throwing the punch was arrested. The injured type O person was treated by a type AB paramedic at the scene and chose not to seek additional medical care.”

    • Tim says:

      If that were how people identified and related to each other. But it’s not, of course. Even Moses had to deal with racism in his own family when Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses’ wife.

  2. dzyizy4 says:

    So should non-majority white schools have white student unions then? Seriously wondering. Tryingto ponder this out. While my high school, in NY was majority white, my Jr hi, in California, and no racial majority. Most of my friends weren’t European americans, and i really didnt notice a difference, well certain’t nnone of us felt unwelcome. I don’t understand why people can’t feel welcome among people of other races?

  3. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    That’s a great example of the privilege white people experience every day – sometimes without even knowing they’re experiencing it.

    • Tim says:

      It’s most often without knowing it, I think. Fish spend their whole lives in water but probably don’t stop to think that they’re wet all the time.

  4. Pingback: Male Privilege – it’s real and it’s an abomination to God | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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