I am not a white bitch

Beth Rankin

READ the letter to the editor Black United Students wrote in response to this column.

There is a campus group that is nearly untouchable.

It is one of the largest and most powerful student groups, able to turn campus upside down with a single phone call. Very few columnists or reporters have had the gall to speak against the group’s policies, because the Stater is very afraid of them – and they have good reason to be.

They are immeasurably powerful.

They are Black United Students.

And I am not afraid.

My freshman year of college, my high school boyfriend and I went to the ballroom to see hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. ACPB, BUS and USS brought him to campus as part of Black History Month programming.

Coming from a town that did not acknowledge Black History Month, I was eager to attend the month’s lectures and talks and to get to know other students interested in fighting for equal rights. Back home, I was the only one.

But what I found that night was disturbing and hurtful in ways it took years to understand.

From the moment Justin and I entered the ballroom, the tension was palpable. We received puzzled stares from students sitting around us, and though we couldn’t put a finger on why, we felt incredibly unwelcome. I left feeling uncomfortable and unable to make sense of what had happened.

Back in Tri-Towers, when I told my dorm mates where I’d been, I received similar puzzled looks. You went to a BUS event? Hasn’t anyone told you about BUS? They don’t want white people attending their functions.

I didn’t believe it. Even as I heard the exact same dialog from every non-black student and coworker I discussed BUS with, I had a hard time believing that a group fighting for equal rights would covertly push away other people fighting for the same cause.

A couple months later, as a member of the Stater editorial board, the forum editor and I had a small meeting with BUS leaders. The Stater and BUS have always had a notoriously rocky relationship, and my editor thought that by hearing from BUS itself about the group’s goals, we could help bridge the gap.

Boy were we surprised when we were informed by then-leaders Teddy Harris and Demareo Cooper that BUS’s goal was not equality, but to advance blacks beyond that of whites. The goal was black-owned, black-operated businesses and universities. When we said,

“… but that’s racism …” we were told that as the majority, we were unable to feel racism. We just couldn’t understand.

Two years later, I was forced to understand.

While covering a fashion show for Uhuru magazine (I was the photo editor at the time), an angry black student hissed, “Why are you even here, anyway?” when I sat my photo gear next to him on a chair.

Weeks later, while covering a Black History Month talk by Malcolm X’s daughter, a man behind me – who apparently was unhappy with my camera – yelled, “Get out of my way, white bitch.”

Shortly after, while silently shooting another BUS event, I was called a white bitch again.

Shelley Blundell, a Kent journalism school graduate and native of South Africa, used to be a member of the Stark campus BUS chapter. But when she began attending Kent BUS events, she said she felt extremely unwelcome.

And after a controversial column on separation, Blundell said she received numerous e-mails from BUS members calling her, too, a “white bitch.”

In 2005, after humor columnist Aman Ali wrote a satirical column called, “Black people need to start sharing,” BUS made one phone call and the two days later, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and NAACP converged on campus, demanding Ali be fired. Some even pushed for his removal from the university.

Yes, Ali’s column was inappropriate and the editor made a major mistake in running it, but when pressured, the editor folded like a card table and gave in to every single demand made by civil rights groups. Since then, the Stater has been very careful about BUS coverage, and when I told them I wanted to write this column, they were nervous. I can’t blame them. BUS has showed its muscle numerous times over the years.

Now, this is not a column bashing BUS for past mistakes. This is a means to a dialog. I truly believe that BUS should embrace its non-black supporters, because there is power in numbers. We support your cause; now can we please be embraced the same way you embrace your black peers?

So this is what I say to you, current members and leaders of BUS: Tell me again. Tell me again what your goals are. I certainly hope they differ from those expressed to me in 2004.

Tell me what you are doing to reach out to non-black students who support your cause. As a straight girl, PRIDE!Kent has always welcomed me to their meetings and functions because they knew I supported their cause. I want to be able to attend BUS functions and feel the same love.

Racism is still a problem in this country, and it will never be solved if we continue to divide black from white. I have been called names and ostracized for the color of my skin, and I have been ridiculed for sharing my life with a man who is not white.

I am not a white bitch. I am a straight, white girl who will always do everything in her power to support the plight of all minorities.

I don’t use the color of your skin against you, so please do not use mine against me.

Please, BUS: Tell me how you plan to use your powers for good. I want to hear your voice, and I want to become a united front in the fight against prejudice.

I am not a white bitch. I am not whitey. I am not a cracker. I am not the man.

And I never want to feel ostracized because of my race ever again. Don’t you feel the same?

Beth Rankin is a senior photojournalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

Editor’s note: KentNewsNet leaders for Fall 2008 decided to remove the comments on this column. The original intent was to foster an open forum about the issues the column raised. Many of those comments, however, were hateful or offensive and did not positively contribute to the conversation. Anyone who wants to respond to the column is encouraged to write a signed letter to the editor of the Daily Kent Stater. Send those letters to:

Letters to the Editor

The Daily Kent Stater

P.O. Box 5190

Kent, Ohio 44242

E-mail: [email protected]

Subject: Letters to the Editor