2005-06-01 Holland Sentinel "Is "Whites-Only" a good thing at its core?"

Is "Whites Only" a good thing at its core?
The Holland Sentinel

White Voices of America (WVA) recently began publicly organizing in our community, creating a flurry of response. Fliers advertising a “family picnic and political discussion” for people of “predominate white ancestry” were posted throughout the Tri-Cities. News stations and print media zeroed in on the breaking story. The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance (LEDA) responded with an invitation to the community to attend a public forum to denounce “whites-only” values and support a community vision of inclusion. White-supremacist websites are covering the story and receiving nationwide comments. Here in the Tri-Cities, the response has been varied. Many community members are appalled, some confused, others supportive of such a gathering. So what is the big hullabaloo?

There is no question the WVA is entitled to free speech and peaceful assembly, as guaranteed under the United States Constitution. The question we ponder is whether a “whites-only” organization has positive or negative impacts on our community. WVA insists it does not require robes, hoods or shaved heads. The organizers simply want a civil discussion among their “fellow white kindred” on issues that impact the white race.

So why are people bristling at the start-up of this organization in our community? Let’s dissect the white supremacy movement for a moment to see if there is cause for concern.

First we must understand that Hate Groups are on the rise in the United States. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Intelligence Project counted 762 hate groups and 468 websites active in 2004. Additionally, if you go to the SPLC website (http://www.splcenter.org/intel) and click on Michigan, you will find many hate group organizations in our state and in our area. And these are only the hate groups the SPLC has been able to document. The reality of hate groups is not an anomaly, as many of us would like to believe.

The methods the WVA are using to organize (posting fliers, developing a grassroots organization rather than aligning themselves with a national organization and hosting public meetings for infusing membership) are frighteningly similar to the methodology being recommended by white supremacy organizations tired of fighting lawsuits which cripple larger organizations. At the American Renaissance (AR) homepage (www.amren.com), the May 27 news links to an article on WVA, titled Whites-Only Group Looking To Recruit Members. Readers of this white supremacy site are invited to email comments. One writer states, “I think this is, yet again, another small but positive sign that whites are waking up to the threat to their group interests, that this so-called multicultural “diversity” really is. They seem to be much like most of the readers and posters at the AR website, racially awake and organizing for the common political interests of whites, minus all the Nazi hoopla and hysterics. I wish I still lived in Michigan, I would join this group and drive up for the whites-only picnic and discussion.” That was one of the kinder responses.

Topics that arouse racial divisions are often used as a platform of respectability for white hate groups. One of the topics the WVA reported they will discuss is affirmative action. People from many walks of life have varying and often strong feelings about this topic. Well-intentioned people may be against affirmative action, but it is doubtful many would be in favor of returning to the days when people of color were so blatantly refused a place at the table.

As the WVA fliers began drawing public reaction and media coverage, LEDA board members met to discuss how to respond. Not wanting additional media attention for WVA, LEDA also recognized their message was already in the media. LEDA felt the absence of a response would be an indictment of apathy in our community. Determined to not allow our community to be painted as a place where racism is acceptable because of the actions of one small group, LEDA decided to provide an opportunity for our community to come together to publicly declare that “whites-only” values are not our community values.

LEDA has organized a public forum to affirm our community’s commitment to inclusion, a place where all will be invited to the table. At that forum, Thursday June 2 at 7pm at Lakeshore Middle School, attendees will be invited to sign a community statement. That statement reads: “We, the undersigned, support a community committed to justice, equal opportunity, and mutual respect, where people of all ethnic backgrounds are invited to participate fully in the life of the community.” LEDA will run the statement, with all signatures, as a full-page ad in the newspaper. If anyone would like their name to appear on the statement and cannot attend the forum, they can email LEDA to request their name be included (LEDA@ethnicdiversity.org).

One of the many emails LEDA has received in response to this forum stated the following: “ I will be at the forum and applaud your efforts. This is the first time I have actually felt fearful for the safely of my multiethnic family here. And that makes me so, so sad.”

Please join us in sending the message that the Tri-Cities is a safe place for this multiethnic family and people of all ethnic backgrounds who choose to participate in the life of our community.