'White Awake' group draws backlash at University of Maryland

- The University Of Maryland is dealing with backlash over a campus group called “White Awake.”

According to flyers distributed around campus, it’s a “group for white students to talk about race.”

The description on the flyer says the group offers a “safe space for White students to explore their experiences, questions, reactions and feelings.”

It poses three questions:

1. Do you want to improve your ability to relate to and connect with people different from yourself?

2. Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable and confused before, during or after interactions with racial and ethnic minorities?

3. Do you want to become a better ally?

The group drew backlash as people roasted the university online, calling the group unnecessary and offensive.

One Twitter user wrote, “the world is a space for white people to talk in.”

Others though argue the intention behind the group is admirable, even if the execution was flawed.

“I thought it was actually a good idea,” one student said. “I know there has been a lot of pushback about the new student group, but I think it would be a good idea for students to come together because there is a lot of racism, which I don’t support. But there is also a lot of anti-racism pushing back so it’s important to have a safe space for everyone. I think that if white students got together to talk about their ideas, that is just as important as any other student group getting together.”

“If they want to talk about diversity, there are other ways to do it,” another student retorted. “They need to understand where other ethnic groups are coming from. It would work better if everyone was talking collectively about the issues and concerns that they have instead of this group feeling like they need to do this. If you get a bunch of white people in a room, then I don’t see how you are really going to understand how racial dynamics work.”

FOX 5 reached out to the university, who released this statement:

“Although it is our intent to promote anti-racism, we acknowledge that there are members of our community that may have felt harmed by the naming of this group.

"Our Counseling Center embraces multiculturalism as one of our key and most important values, as evidenced by its diverse staff, services and programs.

"The purpose of this effort is to promote anti-racism and becoming a better and more informed ally. Our Counseling Center acknowledges that we did not choose the right words in raising awareness about this research-based initiative, and how this group has been perceived is counter to the values of inclusiveness and diversity that we embody. Therefore, we are renaming the group to better reflect our intention and values.”

The university has changed the group’s name to “Anti-Racism and Ally Building Group.”

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