An American university lecturer has claimed the media’s depictions of black people as “violent animals” has played a part in the surge of white student union groups which have been cropping up online in recent months.
Joanna Thompson, a lecturer with the University of Illinois department of criminology, law and justice, told BBC News that, if young people are being “bombarded by negative images of blacks,” many will want to find a space where they feel safe and “regain that top spot on the racial hierarchy.”
Her comments have come after a recent spike in white students’ unions groups which have been gathering attention - and support - on Facebook from, not only the US, but from Canada and Australia too.
While many of these groups have turned out to be hoaxes, run by Internet trolls, it has emerged many are, in fact, real.
The first such student group formulated on campus was reported to be the the Illini White Student Union (IWSU), according to an open letter from Standing with Her (SWH) - a movement at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), which says it stands with black women to “keep racist colleges and universities accountable.”
In the letter - addressed to university administrators following a national day of staff and student action called the Student BlackOut - SWH urged staff to take action over the apparent formation of the IWSU which reportedly told its members: “Feel free to send in pictures you take of any black protestors on the quad so we know who anti-whites are.”
That IWSU page was “swiftly dismantled by Facebook and the university due to copyright infringement,” reported The Daily Illini. However, shortly after, other similar groups surfaced, including one IWSU page which, so far, has just over 6,200 likes on its Facebook page. This IWSU group insists it “does not promote racism or discrimination of any kind,” adding how it is “striving for equal treatment of students at University of Illinois.”
The rise in white students’ unions has reportedly been fuelled by a post on news and commentary site the Daily Stormer. Describing itself as “attempting to preserve Western Civilization...out of love,” the post told readers to “Make more of these White Student Union pages on Facebook for various universities.” The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times have also labelled the site as being “neo-Nazi” and “white supremacist.”
Since then, white students’ unions have been established for Iowa State University, Harvard, and also in Canada and groups have emerged across Australia which are claiming to represent students of European descent, reported news.com.au.
The Iowa State group’s founder told BBC News he started the page after experiencing racial discrimination on campus when told by “different ethnic support groups” he “will not understand because I have not experienced racism.”
The same is said to have applied for Harvard’s page whose founder told the news site the group hopes to gain official recognition and has also “tried to identify sympathetic professors.”
Based out of Toronto, Canada, a York University group published an article online on why the institution needs a white students’ union after claiming its student newspaper refused to carry it. In the article, the Student for Western Civilisation group says a white students’ union “would serve multiple purposes.” It adds: “It would serve to promote and celebrate the culture of Western Civilisation. It would serve as a platform to promote and advance the political interests of Western peoples. And most importantly, it would serve as a venue to explore those perspectives on ethnic politics that our Marxist indoctrinators seek to suppress and ignore, thereby giving to York a taste of that intellectual ‘diversity’ which it purports to value.”
With at least seven unofficial white students’ unions having been formed “at rapid speed” in the period of a week across Australia last month, news.com.au reported how, amid allegations the groups were not real and attempting to troll the media, students still reached out to the news site insisting they would like to see their “interests as white students” be advanced.
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