Exclusive Interview with the FSU White Student Union

By Danielle Wirsansky on December 8, 2015

Last week I wrote an article explaining what white student unions were as well as featuring the opinion of FSU students on the topic. It resounded with many students. But it particularly made an impact on the FSU White Student Union who reached out to me to make a statement. After discussing their concerns, they wanted to reach back out to the FSU Community at large and respond publicly. They agreed to this interview, and after reaching out to fellow FSU students to get the questions they were most burning to ask, conducted an interview with the FSU White Student Union. Read the interview below:

Q: So what is a white student union in general?

WSU: A white student union is no different than any other student union, whether it be a Black Student Union, a Women’s Student Union, or a Jewish Student Union. It gives students a platform to voice their grievances while also allowing students the opportunity to meet similar people and celebrate a shared history or culture.

Q: Do you believe that all universities should have a white student union?

WSU: Students at every school should have the option to create a white student union. Whether or not they should have a one is irrelevant, but they should have the same opportunity that all other students have. The opportunity to create a student union.

Q: Is having that opportunity to create a union more important than having the union itself?

WSU: That’s an interesting question. I think that not being allowed the opportunity to create a student union is indicative of the need for a white student union.

The FSU White Student Union’s pinned post at the top of their facebook page.

Q: Do you believe that FSU specifically needs a white student union over other universities?

WSU: The vitriolic and hateful reaction that this page has garnered is proof of the need for a white student union at FSU. Within hours of this pages creation, FSU was attempting to have the page shut down, not because of anything we said or did, but because we are a “white student union.” From the very beginning we have stated that we do not support racism, we do not seek to infringe on the rights of other students, and we do not seek special rights of our own, only the opportunity to create a student union, something all other students can do. Yet despite that, we’re called racists, bigots, and nazi’s. Our inbox is flooded with students expressing their thanks for saying the things that they are afraid to say publicly, something that your own experience has shown, that white students are afraid to publicly support this group. University is supposed to be a place where ideas can be expressed and challenged, but the reaction this page has been degradation and a demand for censorship. If people believe that FSU does not need a white student union, we encourage a civil discussion on the issue, but the people opposed to this group don’t want a discussion, they want censorship.

Many of the white student union pages across the country are in contact with each other, and in general the experiences seem to be the same. The reaction that white student unions have received across the country shows the need for, at the very least, a conversation about these issues. Whether or not FSU needs a White Student Union more or less than any other school I cannot say, I’m only a student at FSU.

Q: Before the backlash occurred from starting the page, what was the most pressing reason that compelled or inspired you to start the WSU in the first place?

WSU: Ultimately we just believed that white students should have a student union as well. There are dozens of racially and ethnically based student unions, but not one to represent white students. The reaction to this page, both the positive and negative reactions, are what have truly made me passionate about the need for a White Student Union on campus.

Q: Many students are concerned that the page was not created by an actual FSU Student. You mentioned it briefly before, but can you confirm that you are indeed an FSU student?

WSU:

The Anonymous FSU White Student Union delegate sent this picture of a censored FSU ID card in response.

Q: Is this page an individual effort or is just one person running the page? And if there are multiple people involved, are they all FSU students?

WSU: We are all FSU students.

Q: What efforts are you making to become an officially recognized SRO on campus if any?

WSU: Right now we are focused on getting our message out and growing support for the page. With the current climate, there is very little chance we could become an official SRO. As support grows, we believe that will change.

Q: How do you feel the white student union functions for the benefit of the FSU student community? What important events, services or practices does (or will) the WSU provide to students that are not necessarily white? How are you contributing to the university as a whole?

WSU: Going off of the pretty lively discussion that has occurred, I think the resulting conversation is something that would benefit all students. As for events, services, and the like, ultimately that would be something for the students that comprise the union to decide. Discussion and debates involving race would be an interesting thing to host, we can raise awareness for issues, celebrate culture/history, in general the typical things.

Q: You mention raising awareness for issues. Can you elaborate on these?

WSU: From a university stand point, your own experience has shown that white students are afraid to speak out on these topics. White students are bullied into self censorship and that’s very real problem. Affirmative action is something that is great for some people, but by definition comes at the expense of white and asian students, that’s a very real issue. Outside of universities, every group has issues that disproportionately affect it, issues that we could raise awareness for. White Americans abuse prescription drugs at a much higher rate than most other demographics, particularly in certain parts of the country, and the suicide rate for white Americans is 2-4 times higher than it is for black americans.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about a month ago the study found that “Between 1978 to 1998, the mortality rate for U.S. whites aged 45 to 54 fell by 2 percent per year on average, which matched the average rate of decline in the six countries shown, and the average over all other industrialized countries. After 1998, other rich countries’ mortality rates continued to decline by 2 percent a year. In contrast, U.S. white non-Hispanic mortality rose by half a percent a year. No other rich country saw a similar turnaround.” To put that into perspective Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics and co-author of the paper said that that means “half a million people are dead who should not be dead.” That seems like an enormous problem to me.

A post from the FSU White Student Union Facebook page.

Q: How is your perceived “cultural loss” not really a loss of privilege? Can you give specific examples of “white culture,” particularly those elements that are allegedly being lost, and demonstrate clearly that these things are not about superiority?

WSU: White culture is an extremely diverse thing, in the same vein that Asian, Black, or Hispanic culture is extremely diverse. There are some things that will be a part of white culture in the south, white culture in the midwest, white culture in Europe, exc exc. Any discussion on culture really depends what you mean by it. No one debates that dashiki’s and kimono’s are culture, so why don’t we consider blue jeans, cow boy hats, and suits to be culture? Food, music, history, art, fashion, everything is a form of culture. 86% of campers are white and 95% of people who visit National Forests or wilderness areas are white. Camping, backpacking, hiking, exc are culturally white things. You can find countless examples of things that can be considered part of white culture, and obviously it does not apply to all white people.

The debate around the confederate flag is an example of “cultural loss.” Personally, I don’t care for the flag, but a lot of people really do. It’s something that’s deeply engrained in southern white culture. It has nothing to do with privilege or superiority, it’s just a part of southern history that some people are really passionate about, yet is being banished from history because some people have deemed it offensive.

The reason people don’t see things as a part of “white culture,” is because white culture is endemic. White culture created the world and has spread to every corner of the world. I’ve never seen a non-white person accused of cultural appropriation for wearing blue jeans, but if a white person does anything that is not emphatically white, they’re accused of cultural appropriation.

Q: Are you aware that the SPLC has listed White Unions as “hate groups”? Are you aware that you are signaling to “hate groups” that you want to be among them?

 WSU: Don’t you find that absurd? That all White Unions are inherently labeled “hate groups?” We don’t hate anyone, we have consistently said we do not support racism, do not espouse a white supremacist ideology, and we do not want to infringe on anyone’s rights, or seek any special rights of our own. That’s a ridiculous and loaded question.

A post from the FSU White Student Union facebook page.

Q: How do you think a White Student Union will effect the lives of non-white students on campus?
WSU: Meanwhile the FSView shows two students throwing up Black Power fists, a symbol most associated the Black Panthers, a violent and racist group that’s also considered a hate group by the SPLC, yet no one cares about that. Ideally, it wouldn’t effect their lives. The Nepalese student union doesn’t effect my life, a white student union shouldn’t change theirs.
Q: But isn’t that the point of union, particularly on a a college campus? To give those without a voice, generally minorities, a united platform so that the issues they face don’t go unnoticed because those same issues don’t affect the majority?
WSU: Women are now 60% of all college students, should you not have student unions? Some universities in this country have a majority student body that is Asian, some are majority hispanic, some are majority black, some are majority Jewish, can white students have unions at those schools? White people and white students clearly have issues that disproportionately effect us, and I don’t feel like those issues are being addressed. Your own experience has shown you white students don’t have a voice on these issues. The simple fact is that we are being denied something because we are white, something that all other students have the right and are encouraged to do.

Posts from the FSU White Student Union facebook page.

Q: Since “white” is an ambiguous term, what are the exact qualifications for membership?
WSU: Everyone would be allowed to join. We would not exclude anyone with legitimate interest. The percentage of mixed race Americans has grown dramatically in recent years and the vast majority of black Americans have some level of white ancestry, we would encourage them to explore that side of themselves.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add that I may not have thought to ask you about?
WSU: We are not trying to take away anything from anyone, We do not condone racism, and we’re not looking for special rights. Ideally, a white student union wouldn’t change the lives of anyone outside of it. There is simply no downside in allowing white students the equal opportunity that all other students have. I understand the passion on both sides of this issue, but the vitriol and hate we are receiving is completely unwarranted. We welcome and encourage debate and discussion on these topics.
Danielle Wirsansky graduated from FSU with a BA in Theatre, a BA in Creative Writing with a minor in History, and an MA in Modern European History with a minor in Public History. While a graduate student, she served as the Communications Officer for the History Graduate Student Association and President/Artistic Director of White Mouse Theatre Productions. She studied abroad in London, England for the Spring 2015 semester at FSU's study center for the Playwriting Program and interned for the English National Theatre of Israel in Summer of 2015. Her first musical, City of Light, opened as part of FSU's New Horizons Festival in Spring of 2016. She has also won the MRCE and URCAA Research grants from FSU. In the past, she served as the Marketing Director for the FSU Student Theatre Association, the intern for the Holocaust Education Resource Council, and the research assistant of Prof. Nathan Stoltzfus. She has previously written for Context Florida (Contributing Writer), USA Today College (Contributing Writer), Sheroes of History (Contributing Blogger), No(le)Reservations (Contributing Blogger), Female, Reloaded (Arts/Entertainment Editor) , I Want a Buzz Magazine (intern), Mandarin Newsline (youth arts update columnist), Distink Designs (Guest blogger), whatscheaper.com (associate editor), escapewizard.com (associate editor), Spark TLH (Contributor), the Tallahassee Democrat (contributor), Elan Literary Magazine (Head of Marketing), and the Improviser Newspaper (Opinions Editor). Danielle has been lucky to be writing for Uloop since 2015 and to have served as the FSU Campus Editor since 2015.

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