Mike Huckabee asserted on Sunday that a student group is calling for the University of Michigan to segregate campus spaces, sharing a story whose headline further asserts the group is moving to ‘completely ban whites’ from a certain location. However, the group, Students4Justice, says their request has been misrepresented — and a look at the letter from the University of Michigan President shows no request for any sort of ban.
The Conservative Tribune reported that a group called Students4Justice is demanding safe spaces for black students. The story quotes a small portion of the actual demand letter from the student group.
“…a permanent designated space on central campus for Black students and students of color to organize and do social justice work”
However, the small quoted portion doesn’t establish firmly what that means, and the conservative outlet goes on to extrapolate a ban as a possible meaning, asserting that students are demanding “…their own non-white safe space,” and that this was an example of “…black students spearheading a movement to bring back segregation.”
Sharing the story on Sunday, Mike Huckabee, former candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, added his own twist.
“There, self-proclaimed ‘justice’ warriors against racism are demanding segregated, ‘whites only’ and ‘blacks only’ spaces”
He goes on to suggest that these students need more history classes to teach them about the Civil Rights movement’s heroes…
“…who risked their lives to desegregate schools and end ‘whites only/blacks only’ facilities.”
While Huckabee’s share of the story bears the headline, “Libs Move To Completely Ban Whites From THIS Location,” the current headline has slightly softer wording, mentioning instead a “separate space on campus where no whites can go. However, neither segregated campuses nor an attempt to “ban whites,” or even a “separate space where no whites can go” are included in the actual request from the student group.
Students4Justice referred to the “ban whites” claim on Friday, saying that it is a “…misrepresentation of our work and our demands for the University of Michigan.”
In the response letter [PDF] from University of Michigan to these students, the demands that have been interpreted as a call to “ban whites” are quoted — showing that the specific demand in question was truncated, cutting off relevant clarifying information that shows the request not as calling for a ban of any group, but for a place to focus on activism.
The first sentence of this demand is as quoted by conservative news pieces.
Create a permanent designated space on central campus for Black students and students of color to organize and do social justice work.
However, while this line has been interpreted as a call to ‘ban whites,’ nothing in it explicitly says that anyone would be banned. Further, the second line of the demand makes it clearer that this isn’t a space to ban whites from, but for activism focused on social justice for people of color.
“This is not the same as Trotter Multicultural Center, because we want a space solely dedicated to community organizing and social justice work specifically for people of color.”
The demand does not describe a place to avoid or ban other cultures or groups — it describes instead a place with a specific activist focus.
Other, separate demands include a request for a more diverse campus staff, and for the staff to address police brutality.
Further, in a YouCaring fundraiser dedicated to the same project, Students4Life is even more explicit: the goal is to (emphasis added)
“…create an activist center at the University for students of color and allies to organize”
Who is welcome as an ally? Well, back in November, Students4Justice actually shared a link inviting white people to be allies, and discussing the contributions to be made. Rather than “ban whites,” the link describes ways that whites can be a part of the activism in question.
University of Michigan’s response letter, in fact, does not show any sign of reading this demand as a request to ban whites; instead the response describes the multicultural spaces already present, including the aforementioned Trotter Multicultural Center, which is described not as a location for activist work but for events, education, and activities.
The letter goes on to recognize a social justice center for activist work on campus as a possible future endeavor. Neither the demand nor the response ever mentions a ‘ban’ of whites or any other group, only two widely differing views on what is necessary for the campus to support all students.
[Featured Image By: Spencer Platt/Getty Images]