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February 22, 2024

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Columnist discusses controversy behind Gish Theater town hall

“It’s not like we learn Eurocentric-based history 365 days of the year, seven days in the week, 24 hours a day.”

I wrote this quote in a satirical piece three years ago, a month following the inauguration of President Trump, and it’s best to say I was angry.

The piece I wrote, called “Black Privilege,” mocks white privilege and those with the “pure” skin color who deny their privilege and call it a ploy to blame, oppress and eradicate the white race. I’d thought I share what was on my 16-year-old conscious regarding white privilege in a satirical approach.

“Racism and discrimination were a thing of the past, and the past is in the past. Let it go. It’s time to unify, educate and eradicate the problem at stake: black privilege.”

There’s no shame in writing satire, but there came a great deal of growth and maturity in the last three years, away from the painful prejudices in my mind. However, playing devil’s advocate, people of color have a right to feel prejudice from all that they’ve experienced, in the past, present and hopefully not the future.

How would you feel if the president of the United States was degrading and dehumanizing to you? Have you feared leaving your home in the morning because you’re afraid you may not return that evening? How would you feel if you weren’t look at as a human?

There’s many questions I can persistently ask, but there’s only one thing I can say: this is privilege if you say you’ve never experienced the three questions above. More likely than not, if you’re white, you’ve never experienced the three questions above — and not to dismiss individual experience, but that’s your privilege as a white American.

“It’s ironic because in the American education system, Eurocentric history isn’t widely recognized, but black history is at the top of curriculum. We’ve learned it was Cristóbal Colón who discovered the Americas, and it was Africans who brought the guns, the germs and steel.”

In recent issues, the Gish Theater controversy and the question of if it should be renamed has resparked the headache I had three years ago. The Gish Theater town hall, given by the Black Student Union, was unexpected, but of the questions, responses and the stories I heard, I’ve known it all too well.

The pain and anguish from the people of color who spoke, support from the allies who stood up and a lack of respect from some of those silencing the voices of the opposition to the Gish name were all present.

It was hard for me not to say anything at the meeting — I was trying to promote journalistic ethics and be objective, but I spoke up. I told them about my fears and experiences, the past and the present struggles I face. I also told them to check the color of their skin and to check their privilege. I said some things I don’t remember; I poured all the emotions straight out of my heart.

“I’m human. I have valid feelings and I bleed the same as each person on the face of the Earth. But when people dismiss the humanity of people of color, it’s repeating the history we’re still attempting to overcome.”

There were words, actions and reactions that reminded me of the recent column I wrote about subtle racism.

There were students and people of color who explained their personal experiences and their individual afflictions with the Gish Theater name. But pro-Gish individuals, primarily white individuals, dismissed the experiences and the afflictions of the people speaking against the name.


I said the prior quote in my recent column, and I cannot repeat this enough. Voices are being silenced, but it’s 2019, and people will not be silenced anymore.

Hearing people in the room stand up to confront the issue restores my hope in people and for the cause. It shows people are fighting and will continue to fight for the greater good of the world we live in. Also, we were able to get through to those individuals who opposed the name change, to change some of their minds and give them a new perspective at the meeting, but there’s still change needed if we are to live in a peaceful world.

Conclusively, the Gish Theater goes deeper than its name; the emotions and controversy expressed at the town hall parallels to the racial tensions occurring in the country, and the Gish is just one example.

For my brothers and sisters of color, keep fighting and know your voices are valid and have potency to change the world. How do you want to change the world?

For my white brothers and sisters, recognize the privilege that comes with white skin, but also know your voices are valid and have the power to change the world. How will you use your voice?

We’re all human, and I hope in the end, we may all come to a non-satirical conclusion where there’s not a need to fight for our humanity.


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