Sounds bad, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. It was (I think) ahead of its time, and taught me important things.
I can’t remember when SWCA emerged. Possibly it was just after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered in 1968.
I had radical friends, members of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). One of them told me they were forming a new organization, Students for White Community Action, to deal with the fact that racism in America is fundamentally a WHITE problem. This was contrary to my assumptions. I thought that Black Americans were poor and uneducated, and needed (white) teachers and social workers to help them rise to “mainstream” social and economic status. My radical buddies enlightened me about the Black professional class, cultural values and (to some extent) the accomplishments of Black Americans.
I don’t know what happened to SWCA. Perhaps a few meetings were held? I was struggling to keep up in my chosen academic major (chemistry) and didn’t indulge in much outside of studying.
Why was my viewpoint on race so limited? I grew up in a defacto segregated suburb of Hartford, Connecticut. The “North End” of Hartford, home to its African American population, was perhaps five miles from my house, but it might as well have been on the far side of the moon. By the time I was a senior in high school, a tiny bit of communication had been established by teachers and church leaders. One friend of mine went to the North End weekly, to tutor. Eventually, we had one “cultural exchange” – choir concerts! We were bused into the North End and performed at a high school, which reciprocated.
Michigan State University was almost as white as my hometown, but the winds of change were blowing at gale force. Possibly the Civil Rights movement in the South could have been ignored, but the “long hot summer” of 1967 culminated in the terrible 5-day Detroit Riot which left 43 dead, 1,189 injured, 7,200 arrested and 2,000 buildings destroyed (Wikipedia).This took place one hour’s drive from the campus I entered in September of 1967. MSU had been used as a staging area for the military assault on Detroit. The University was not, that season, a stable institution. No wonder I remember my college years as “turbulent”.
More than 50 years have passed since then. I’m still learning…
2 thoughts on ““Students for White Community Action” at Michigan State University, 1968. Personal history.”
The students combatting racism as a white issue were way ahead of their time! Wonder what happened to them? Thanks for sharing this experience!
Very powerful, and unknown to me.