On Monday evening, a number of White Pomona College students formed a new club called “We’ve Got Work To Do: White People for Deconstructing Whiteness.” The club, open to students from all five of the Claremont Colleges, aims to “work on owning our racism, deconstructing our Whiteness, and to engage in movement & action toward dismantling White Supremacy.”
“White people at the 5C’s: we’re all racist. we’re all microaggressive. [W]e are all not only complicit in, but actively perpetuating white supremacy,” states an advertisement for the group. “Pretending that we are not racist and hoping that no one will discover our racism really doesn’t cut it. [W]e need to ACTIVELY be doing work to deconstruct our whiteness (and holding our peers accountable in doing the same).”
“Recognizing that White identity is a self-fashioned, hierarchical fantasy, Whites should attempt to dismantle Whiteness as it currently exists,” explains the group’s Facebook page, quoting Ian Haney López, a leading racial justice scholar. “Whites should renounce their privileged racial character, though not simply out of guilt or any sense of self-deprecation. Rather, they should dismantle the edifice of Whiteness because this mythological construct stands at the vortex of racial inequality in America.”
Though the community is meant to be an open space for the discussion of students’ Whiteness and its negative impacts on people of color, students within the group must be “white people who believe white supremacy exists, whether [they] have owned that [they themselves] are racist or not.” The founder of the group clarified that mixed-race students with a White parent would be able to attend, but only if they had the end goal of deconstructing their learned Whiteness. Additionally, White students who do not believe in White supremacy are not welcome.
“The group is trying to address racism in the white community. We’re not racist and we don’t hate white people,” wrote Kate Dolgenos, a senior at Pomona who joined the organization, in an email to the Independent. “I’m really happy this group has formed and I’m excited to see what we’ll do throughout the semester.”
Not all students are as enthusiastic, however. “While I cannot comment on how the group intends to define and ‘deconstruct’ a white identity, as a cisgendered, politically liberal white male,” Dalton Martin, a junior at Pomona, said, “I feel this group may do less for persons of color rather than more. I feel that trying to codify and effectively martyr an image of white culture detracts from attempts to engage and stand in solidarity with marginalized identities.”
International students, too, found the group to potentially be harmful. “Outside of the United States, being ‘white’ is not a unified and malignant identity,” wrote one international student in an email to the Independent. “I think their brash generalization invalidates the experiences of many people who would be considered White by their standards, which does not harmonize well with embracing one’s own identity and self-love.”
“We’ve Got Work To Do” will soon be meeting to discuss their short- and long-term objectives as a community as to how to approach and handle their Whiteness, as well as how their Whiteness affects communities of color both on- and off-campus.