Leftist GWU groups want to 'prioritize people of color' in leadership positions
Several student groups responded to the group’s demands, offering action plans as to how to solve the supposed problem.
A leftist student group called Students Against Imperialism recently posted a list of demands stating too many white students are in leadership positions in leftwing student organizations.
Several groups at George Washington University have answered a call to solve what they see as the problem of having too many white students leading leftist student groups. “Students Against Imperialism,” a leftist student group, released a demand, claiming there exist too many white students in the university’s leftwing student organizations. In turn, the group wants future leadership positions to be prioritized based on the color of the applicant’s skin – so long as that skin color is not white. The letter, posted on the group’s Facebook page, has since been removed.
The student organization called for other leftwing student groups to “prioritize people of color in these organizations through leadership positions and visibility on projects,” demanding each to “respond with a statement outlining the steps they will be taking.”
In response to the since-removed letter, many student organizations took action to comply with the grievances. Sunrise GW is a student organization whose stated objective is to “stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.” The organization’s web page declares they are “building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across the country, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people.”
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In response to the deleted demand letter, Sunrise GW stated they “acknowledge the grievances brought forward by the signatories” of the letter. They declared that they “are fully committed to dismantling all vestiges of racism, imperialism, and white supremacy both within the climate movement and society at large.” Furthermore, Sunrise GW, designated its Justice, Equity, and Anti-Oppression (JEAO) Coordinator, Pranay Somayajula, as the person to contact for any of the group’s members who signed the letter, reiterating the desire to smash racism, imperialism, and white supremacy “in their entirety."
GW’s Progressive Student Union also publicly acknowledged the “grievances expressed” in the since-deleted letter. As part of the response, PSU acknowledged the group “has been predominantly white and that it will take a concerted effort to create an equitable organizing space.”
Additionally, PSU created a system of accountability where students can anonymously submit racial concerns. The group alsopromised to incorporate a practice “of encouraging members to say one thing that went well and one thing that needs to be improved at the end of each meeting.” The group stated that intent to “distribute both work and credit in an equitable way” and will put this responsibility “on the white members of PSU," thus, assigning extra work and responsibility to college students based on their white skin color.
The Young Democratic Socialists of America at GW (YDSA GW) also acknowledged the grievances of the letter, calling it a “conversation...that has been ongoing in leftist circles for a long time.” Additionally, YDSA GW, announced it would “center an on-campus campaign of racial justice as its primary agenda for the 2020-2021 academic year.” They also declared the intention to prioritize the “perspectives of students of color” through progressive stacking “which involves ordering speakers inverse to their levels of privilege so as to amplify marginalized voices.”
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Moreover, YDSA GW announced it was amending its constitution “to include a provision requiring members of YDSA GW who are in positions of relative privilege” to take on additional responsibility including “encouraging white members to take the initiative to put themselves on the front lines in interactions with law enforcement and situations where arrest may be a possibility, in recognition of the drastically increased risk undertaken by people of color in such circumstances.” YDSA GW also announced they will be prioritizing students of color in leadership positions” and “no plans or decisions made by the organization will be conducted without the input and consent of students of color.”
The organization that initially posted the grievances, on Facebook, “Students Against Imperialism,” is a student-led organization that is “dedicated to supporting international struggles against oppression and imperialism.” It is also a pro-Palestinian student group. As such, SAI asserts that white students in leadership positions are against their pro-Palestinian initiatives.
The group declared that white students “cannot be considered allies in the struggle for Palestinian rights.”
“As students of color within the GW Left, we have felt consistently excluded from several organizing spaces and actions,” the since-deleted letter proclaimed. “It has unfortunately become a norm to have white students put themselves at the forefront of student organizations deriving from political issues that impact Black and Brown people the most.
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“Right-wing and liberal student groups push agendas that inherently muffle the voices of people of color and perpetuate racism through their implicit support of capitalism and imperialism,” the letter stated. “Black and brown bodies’ are not buzzwords to be thrown around. We are people, not props.”
This radical plea is, so far, being supported by GW’s student university president, Howard Brookins III.
“GW has a passionate and active community of leftists that is too often dominated by white students,” Brookins stated. “When deciding which struggles to emphasize, often the ones that focus the most on the experiences of people of color are excluded. I stand with the students and their demands made by the GW Left Coalition and call on the GW community to do better.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @chris_tremoglie