The first time we saw the title of the Turning Point USA (TPUSA) event, we knew it was going to be the talk of the Rider community. My intuition was solidified when we saw the line for the event circled throughout the staircase in the foyer of the Bart Luedeke Center up to the front of the Cavalla Room. An event filled with students, faculty and Lawrenceville citizens highlighted the topic of white privilege. Given the title “White Privilege is a Myth,” we naturally expected the event to be nothing less than conversational. Given the numerous points at which the speakers and TPUSA members, Brandon Tatum, the director of urban development and Anna Paulina, the director of Hispanic relations, and audience members shouted over each other in disapproval, my prediction was correct.
Does this event represent Rider? Well, given that this event happened to begin with, it is safe to say that it represents a portion of the Rider community. Since we’ve heard the perspectives of those who believe white privilege is a myth, it is only fair to hear those who believe white privilege is very real.
One of the audience members, sophomore global supply chain management major Sarah Flores, explained her issues with what the speakers had to say.
“I had to work three times as hard. I had to come here at a 4.0 GPA in high school. I came from a primarily white neighborhood. I’ve experienced racism my whole entire life. I’ve seen white privilege eye to eye,” Flores said.
We believe the main issue some people had was the lack of open conversation about the topic. Freshman public relations major and member of the Black Student Union, Xyaire Merriweather, shared how she was angry at first about the event even happening, but then became curious about its subject matter and the possibility for dialogue. With a title and content matter so complex, it should be tackled with understanding and an open-mind. Another critique that was brought up was the lack of empathy.
“I am very angry [and] disappointed. This wasn’t a conversation, by the way. [Tatum] honestly dictated every question, he interrupted, he did not listen and he did not have empathy. I would rather him have said, ‘I’m just not familiar, I just don’t understand how white privilege exists,’ versus saying it completely is a myth,” said Merriweather.
As audience members at the event, we listened to what Tatum and Paulina had to say and we were left with questions. For example, where were Tatum’s statistics from? The speaker never made this clear.
Sadly, we weren’t the only one left with unanswered questions.
“We did have a Black Student Union meeting on how to approach [the event] and I thought [Tatum] was going to give us more time to approach him with statistics and questions but, as you can see, we didn’t get very far. There were still two lines worth [of students withquestions when the speakers concluded the event,]” Merriweather said.
Tatum said he believed white privilege was justification for the minorities’ “defeated mentality.” He made a very bold statement: “[Minorities] are not targeted by police more than anybody else, look at the statistics.”
What Tatum did not do was look at the statistics himself. Yes, the Washington Post found that, of the people killed by police in 2014 and 2015, “51 percent were white, 28.1 percent were black, 19.1 percent were Latino and 1.7 percent were Asian.”
Most people killed by the police were, in fact, white. However, Tatum neglected to look deeper into those statistics because in 2014 and 2015, the white population in the U.S. made up 62 percent while, “Blacks made up 17.9 percent of the country and [therefore] are drastically underrepresented,” according to the Washington Post.
Paulina had her fair share of insensible comments with one in particular that seemed to lack attention. She went on a tangent saying that, without starting the white privilege conversation, Americans will not be successful in this country. She then immediately contradicted herself and said, “What’s beautiful about being Americans is that we do not really see color.”
Paulina, how do we begin dialogue if we cannot accept the differences? By ignoring them? There is no progression and education in refusing to acknowledge one another. Neglecting the racial division is equal to, if not more detrimental than, the participation of racism.
Senior popular music studies major Alexis Green made a very important point publicly at the event, “The problem is, you do not have enough empathy. The problem is, when you are having a conversation with somebody and you are not expressing enough understanding of their situation and their experience, you will never have a successful conversation.”
This conversation was counterproductive and regressive. To TPUSA, it was a ploy to gain foot traffic and generate buzz because, face it, to them there is no such thing as bad press.
As students and members of the same community, we must empathize with one another as much as possible. We must listen to experiences and validate realities because we all live in our own. We do not know what reality TPUSA is living in.
Perhaps Paulina was right and we’re just drinking from the wrong Kool-aid.
This week’s editorial was written by the opinion editor, Qur’an Hansford, and staff writer Tatyanna Carman.