School's 'Safe Space for White Students' Sparks Backlash

The University of Maryland in Baltimore rethinks the offer
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2018 1:48 PM CDT
Buildings on campus at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.   (Wikimedia Commons)

(Newser) – The University of Maryland is in damage-control mode after its counseling center offered "a safe space for White students" to discuss racial issues, CBS Baltimore reports. Called White Awake, the group said it was designed "to promote anti-racism" and "help White students become more culturally competent." As a group flyer put it: "Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable and confused before, during or after interactions with racial and ethnic minorities? ... This group offers a safe space for White students to explore their experiences, questions, reactions, and feelings." But some questioned the group's intentions: "The way I interpret it is that white people are being victimized by interacting with us," Hispanic student David Akerman tells the school's student newspaper, the Diamondback.

In the words of Caleb Finesurrey, a graduate education major: "The world is a safe space for white people to walk in." Now called the Anti-Racism and Ally Building Group, the group changed its online description to emphasize connecting "with people different from yourself" and becoming "a better ally" with others, the Baltimore Sun reports. The school's counseling center, which posted the original flyer, acknowledged that it "was not clear enough" and didn't use "the right words" but said the group is still needed "to help White students become more culturally competent." Race relations have been tense at the university since a black student was fatally stabbed in 2017 and racist symbols, including a noose and swastikas, cropped up on campus. (Read more racism stories.)

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