During St. Charles North High School’s anti-bullying “Ally Week,” one group of students must have decided it was opposite day.
The students wore T-shirts to school that read “straight pride” and quoted a biblical passage declaring death as a punishment for homosexuality. Administration asked students to cross out the biblical passages, which they did. When different students wore similar T-shirts to school the next day, administrators asked them to cover up. School officials made light of the flagrant discrimination by saying the controversy prompted student discussion, which inadvertently helped accomplish a portion of the week’s goals.
Administrators should have taken the situation more seriously. The concept of straight pride is rooted in prejudice. Asserting pride by a group that has never been victimized—that has historically done the victimizing—is insensitive and reckless.
Advocates for “straight pride” have never been beaten to death by police in New York City just for their sexual orientation. They haven’t felt the stigma surrounding a disease that has afflicted millions worldwide but is often falsely associated with one community. They have not seen recent viral pre-suicide messages from young members, the details horrific enough to prompt such anti-bullying weeks. Their “straight pride” has never been under attack.
Imagine the outcry that would have ensued had students’ T-shirts featured the slogan “white pride.” The prejudiced sentiment is no different, and the punishment should have matched accordingly.
Had a threatening biblical passage not been included, the shirts could have been seen as an immature interpretation of discrimination—a feeling young, straight students don’t necessarily understand. But including such condemning words on the shirts showed these students were looking for more than just a laugh or attention. They were advocating continued intolerance and hatred of homosexuals.
This type of attack on minority pride is a dangerous misinterpretation that has been seen before. Arguments for a “white student union” have been whispered around colleges and universities for years, although actually forming one almost always falls flat or is denied permission by school officials. Posing the need for a secluded group whose history is woven with power and privilege, as a white student union or straight alliance’s would be, is a proposition raised out of ignorance.
Reasons for wanting to form these groups vary. For example, white student union advocates say white students should be able to have the same camaraderie as other minority populations; if there is a black student union, there should be a white student union. Others say it is hypocrisy, an extension of the argument that affirmative action programs are “reverse racism.”
The term minority, at least in our society, implies a group with a smaller population faces larger challenges. These groups have more hurdles to traverse in order to get to the same rung on the ladder as those with inherently more privilege.
If anyone has the audacity to argue black and LGBTQ communities have a level playing field, the mere existence of the Civil Rights Bill or repeated failed attempts to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act easily disproves that position. LGBTQ employees still do not have federal protection from employment discrimination, and state legislation is inconsistent.
Black student unions rapidly formed after the Higher Education Act of 1965 was passed, in order to monitor progress and be sure educational equality was being achieved. The significance of any initiative a white student union could attempt to implement just would not compare. Similarly, “straight pride,” or the formation of a straight alliance, would undermine the efforts of countless groups working toward LGBTQ equality.
Minorities have historically suffered dislocation and identity loss as a result of white influence. Groups who start out with less opportunity because of the historical power structure require more support, from one another and allies. It is the only way for the imbalance of opportunity to shift.