When I first read this article after it popped up in my Facebook feed, I had hoped this was an April Fools’ joke. Mr. Bishop has written some of the most thought-provoking articles on race, class, gender, and culture that I’ve had the pleasure of reading anywhere (especially in the cultural haven/marketplace of ideas that theoretically is The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).
I can understand the defensiveness that white people feel not only to claims that they may exhibit prejudiced behaviors, but also to claims of white privilege and to the perceived non-inclusion of #BlackLivesMatter. After all, believe it or not, I am a white person too, and I like to think that any and all life benefits that I enjoy are purely the fruits of my own labor. Heck, in high school, I though affirmative action just meant that minorities got admissions preference to universities over white students (which, I believed to be unfair, since I had EARNED all the success I had in life, especially academically).
Taking multiple classes on race relations (as well as some of my experiences as an ice cream man) taught me a lesson that I do not intend on forgetting at any point in the future; that being, white people in America simply cannot relate to the experiences of being non-white in America. As promulgated in this article, my experiences in life as a person are HUGELY shaped by the fact that I am not only white, but also a cis-gendered, heteronormative-identifying male.
So, what does Ishmael’s departure say about racial relations and UNC’s general climate of inclusion (or apparently, lack thereof)?
First of all, it entirely repudiates the notion that that UNC (not just America as a whole) has deep seated issues with race and sex. I can personally testify to having talked to several STEM students at our university, students who don’t take classes on humanities or society in general while generally abstaining from participating in public discourse like The Daily Tar Heel, who have openly advocated for the university to allow fewer minorities to attend because they/people they know don’t feel like it is fair that they have to compete with students who they view as essentially having handicaps to get into the university. When students like Mr. Bishop write messages of inclusion, awareness, and sympathy for systematically marginalized groups on campus and around the world, now they may be subject to terroristic threats on their livelihoods.
Also, the nature of the comments that Mr. Bishop has had to endure show a profound degree of social ignorance that has already permeated the collective white psyche, especially at colleges (which is ironic considering the educational nature of such institutions). White people think, “We have it tough, too! I hate when people discriminate against whites, because that is totally just as bad!” Really now? Please, tell me about the history of slavery, lynchings, mob violence, Jim Crow laws, social ostracization, institutionalized racism, unfair loan conditions, cultural stereotypes, and identity-defining prejudices that white Americans have had to endure.
Yeah, I don’t know much about that either. If you have time, I would totally check out some of this young writers’ excellent work!