Old Well: “I Am a Whites-Only Well”

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by the Old Well | The Minor

After all I’ve done to exclude and disadvantage people of color, I’m surprised I have to say this again. I am a whites-only well.

Simple as that, folks. Simple as that.

This year, students have drawn a lot of attention to the University of North Carolina’s history of racism. Many of its buildings are named after leading figures in the Ku Klux Klan, confederate officers, slaveholders, and white supremacists. I call those people my friends.

Our most prominent statue was built to glorify those who fought to defend slavery and to unify white southerners behind a politics of racial hatred. I think the university government’s tepid response to student activism has sent a clear message: we are proud of that history.

I was and continue to be a whites-only well.

Minority enrollment and graduation rates lag far behind the campus average. Two years ago, there were 98 black males, 94 Hispanic males, and 12 American Indians in the incoming class of 2017. Too many in my opinion, but at least it was low.

Given that the graduation rate for African-American males is an abysmal 49.7 percent, that first number, at least, is almost certainly lower now. Thank God.

These damning statistics are partially the result of policies at the state and national level which disadvantage people of color, but they are equally the result of unwillingness on the part of the university to provide resources and support to students of color and apathy on the part of the student body towards a campus culture of racism and privilege which excludes and alienates minority students. A culture which I am proud to help create.

We as a University have done our best to make sure that I stay a whites-only well.

If it seems like the only students of color I care about are student-athletes, that’s correct too. And as the Wainstein report made clear, I only care about them as investments, not as people. I’ll use them to sell merchandise and increase TV revenue, but I won’t let their educational needs stand in the way of my profit. The images of black student-athletes, like my image, might be used to promote the University’s brand, but that does not change the reality that I am a whites-only well.

Do not drink my water if you are not white. Do not even think on that.

The Board of Governors recently voted to raise tuition and cap the percent of tuition that can go to financial aid. These decisions will disproportionately impact people of color, whose economic and educational opportunities have been circumscribed by government policies that preserve and legitimize the concentration of wealth among a powerful white minority. The university can no longer categorically exclude blacks, Latinos, and other ethnic minorities, but by making UNC unaffordable for poor and middle class families, I can remain a whites-only well.

Thank God for the BOG.

Even the decision to close the Center on Poverty, Work and Oppurtunity was one more step to safeguard the racial homogeneity of UNC. By punishing professors for activism, especially that related to poverty and inequality, the Republican state government can perpetuate the myths that academic research and discussions of poverty can and should be apolitical.

Academics, if they are to matter at all, must be political. Poverty, if it is to be eliminated, must be recognized as a consequence of our economic and political system. By denying these realities, the Republican government prevents an honest discussion about the causes of racial inequality. An honest discussion which would destroy my whiteness; my very being. A discussion we simply cannot let happen.

Without dissent, without activism, I will always be a whites-only well. I relish this fact.

They say actions speak louder than words, but maybe mine have not been clear enough. The University of North Carolina has always privileged the interests and well-being of white students over the interests and well-being of people of color. Next semester, when you come to me hoping for better grades and a better future, remember that I am a whites-only well. Do not dare touch your lips otherwise.