White puzzle pieces

Liz Kacher, Staff Writer

Should white privilege awareness merit its  own month for recognition for the nation as a whole? A small college in Pennsylvania pioneered a new way to recognize racial differences.

My natural curiosity about politics and race relations led me to find out about a campaign launched by the Elizabethtown College Democrats where they asked students and professors to wear white puzzle-piece pins for the next month to raise awareness as to how the color of their skin has affected their lives.

Elizabethtown College has essentially created “white privilege month,” and it’s been met with drastically different reactions. In light of racial tensions being high in recent months, the intent of this campaign leaves me feeling uneasy and I question its legitimacy.

The white puzzle pieces are supposed to raise awareness of white privilege—which simply means it wants to shed light on an issue that already exists which strains relations between different races.

This controversial campaign gained my attention since I remembered that February is Black History Month. This seemingly odd project has gained significant attention in a time where race relations are not at their best. It also draws up a number of questions, due to the negative connotation that “white privilege” month carries along with it.

“This project will encourage people to have conversations about race and how their inherent white privilege has a part in the systematic oppression of minorities, whether or not they purposefully participate in the system,” Aileen Ida, president of the College Democrats, told Lancaster Online, said.

I don’t deny the fact that white privilege exists in even the smallest sense because it does. But I’m not proud of it. I am a firm believer in the idea that if you work hard, you get what you deserve, but we all don’t share the same starting line. White people start significantly ahead of other races, and that’s a hard fact to negate.

Reading more about the white puzzle pieces, it made me ponder whether or not it merited awareness by the general public. If so, how can that awareness matter to all races?

I thought l would look further into the details of the project to learn more about it. I didn’t want to be skeptical to what it seemed to be without fully understanding what it meant.

Elizabethtown College released a statement on Twitter about the puzzle piece incident, specifically about the College Democrats.

“The College Democrats, a student-run club, in an effort to facilitate conversations on race and privilege in the community, began a project on campus to encourage students to think about their own levels of privilege.”

The statement released on Twitter also talks about participation in the campaign as being optional but reached out to all people of the student body.

“We encourage our students to confront issues of racism, sexism, and intolerance, and are proud to be a community of diverse beliefs.”

I found that a number of Fox News correspondents shared different opinions about the white puzzle piece project, and I wasn’t alone in my skepticism of it. A Fox News Correspondent, Rachel Campos-Duffy, was concerned for her young child to see such a campaign.

“If I was sending a kid… a white son…to a college and he was asked to wear this pin, I’d be upset,” Campos-Duffy said. “I think this is about identity politics, victimhood and making white people feel like they should somehow be self-loathing. This has no place at a university.”

This perspective on the white puzzle piece campaign insinuates that it will only cause further division between people -— Fox News Correspondent Lisa Boothe agreed.

“This is ridiculous; it’s shameful. How does it possibly unite anyone? This is only going to further divide people,”  Boothe said.

In time of a deep division between people in our country, a campaign like this has the potential of dividing us completely.

Another correspondent on Fox News feels completely different about the white puzzle pieces. Fox News Correspondent Juan Williams essentially sees it as an opportunity to bring awareness to race relations.

“In this era when we have so many racial tensions in society, I think this is an opportunity to go to school and think about race in America and how we’re a diverse society and what we have to do to have a sense of who we are,” Williams said.

Juan Williams, a staunch liberal, is getting close to a viable solution to this controversial issue in my opinion -— but he’s not quite there. I think it’s vital to shed light on race relations in society, and we should have a sense of who we are because we all come from different places.

Well, I believe Williams is half right—we should all have a sense of the diversity amongst people. But rather than focusing on how racial minorities have been affected by white privilege, why not focus on how each race is both unique and is equally important as part of society.

Rather than a month designated only to white puzzle pieces, why don’t we all select from different puzzle pieces and choose the one that reflects who we truly are?  Even though each of our puzzle pieces are different, when they’re put together they fit better — they belong together.

Liz Kacher is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]