The social media movement #UnsafeAtK has brought up many issues ranging from concealed carry policies, the safety of students of color on campus, and the administration’s response to the issue.
While all of these things are incredibly important and need to be discussed, as a strong supporter of the #UnsafeatK movement, something that also needs to be addressed is the role of the white ally.
While it may seem unimportant at the moment, because our school is composed of an overwhelming majority of white students, it’s essential that we know how we can support the issues that many of us feel so strongly about.
It’s an important distinction that white people do not have the same role as people of color, and we should not, under any circumstance, attempt to take over their role.
We, as white students, are not #UnsafeAtK, at least not in the same respect that our fellow students of color are. That is the first, and most important part of being an ally in this situation. We need to acknowledge this when talking to administration, our friends, or tweeting.
It’s reasonable, and frankly expected, to be furious over the events that transpired last week, and want to have your anger heard loud and clear. However, it is not appropriate for white allies to become a spokesperson for this movement, or any other movement about the struggles students of color face on campuses.
It is our job to listen. That is our number one objective. To listen to the stories of people of color and try and understand how the system that gives us privilege is racially oppressive. It is only after understanding this concept that we can work towards real change.
To that respect, it is not okay for white students to be the spokesperson for the oppression facing students of color, especially in the media. While you may be echoing their points, your voice is not the one that needs to be heard. What is okay is turning the spotlight onto the marginalized voices that are so often ignored.
Our main job is to amplify the voices of students of color, go to protests, retweet comments, and help their message get across in any way possible. We need to bolster their words and demands, not trample them with our own.
This can be done by directing members of the press who ask for comments to students of color, retweeting instead of making your own tweets, and going to protests as supporters, not instigators.
This is not an attempt to get white students to stop participating in issues dealing with students of color. In fact, this is the exact opposite; to amplify the voices of fellow students of color, to stand in solidarity with them, and make sure the administration knows that students of color are still feeling #UnsafeAtK.