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Should We Be Kicking White People Out of Parties?

6 mins read

Hosted by the Swarthmore Queer Union (SQU), Swarthmore African Student Association (SASA), Swarthmore ENLACE, and the Swarthmore African-American Student Society (SASS), the party at Paces the Saturday before Thanksgiving welcomed diversity more than most. After all, typical Swat parties include an outsized number of white students (many of whom are athletes), making it harder for marginalized groups to feel welcome. Four affinity clubs hosting the party meant that more queer and BIPOC were likely to attend.

As the number of students at the party swelled, however, the organizers decided to clean house over fears of overcrowding. Specifically, it was time to kick out the white people. What followed was a message blaring through the speakers from Google Translate that looped for several minutes on end — telling white students to leave. By the time the message stopped playing, the party’s racial demographics had shifted significantly, and white students comprised a considerably smaller proportion of the remaining party-attendees. The message had been received loud and clear.

To be fair, the organizers were in a lose-lose situation. The party may have intended to center marginalized groups on campus, and there are two main ways to achieve this. For one, students can create safe spaces that are occupied solely by the affinity groups. Alternatively, they can make a more concerted effort to include affinity groups (e.g. queer, Black, Latinx students, etc.) within settings occupied by non-marginalized people (i.e. white people). 

In trying to do both simultaneously, the party did an insufficient job of either and it is fair to question whether telling white students to leave through a text-to-speech software loop is the optimal solution to creating a more inclusive party. More importantly, kicking students out based on race is not the right approach for a number of reasons.

To begin with, as SGO sanctioned clubs hosting parties, they are contractually obligated not to discriminate on the basis of identity. Furthermore, it is difficult to enforce limitations on who gets to be a part of an affinity group and who does not. Especially when it comes to groups such as SQU, there is no objective metric that can be used to validate one’s inclusion. Whiteness does not preclude people from being queer or Latinx. This uncertainty is exacerbated by the fact that even after the message stopped playing, there were still a significant number of white students at the party. It is highly unlikely that all of them were queer. As such, the message created an incentive for students to falsely identify with a marginalized identity.

A party organized and controlled by marginalized groups has the potential to be a space where marginalized groups are centered while still in the presence of white people. Through a stronger presence of marginalized groups and the ability to play more inclusive music, this party could have realized this potential. Instead, white students were kicked out — discriminating based on race, which only sowed further division on campus at a time when such issues are especially salient. 

When it comes to including marginalized groups — like those represented by the hosts at Paces on Saturday night — students’ approaches are often at odds with each other. We want safe spaces that are exclusively occupied by a given marginalized group. At the same time, we want to do more to center marginalized groups in settings occupied by white people, which would necessitate interaction between marginalized groups and white people. Racial exclusion, however, does not contribute to either and goes against the type of community we strive to cultivate at Swat.

The organizers’ decision to tell white people to leave is an example of these conflicting approaches. By kicking white students out after they had already entered, the organizers created a “safe space” that was not really a safe space. After all, not everyone who stayed at the party belonged to the affinity groups. Meanwhile, the groups hosting the party also squandered a prime opportunity to center marginalized voices. When white people came into a space that was controlled by affinity groups of marginalized people, they were told to leave, breaking up a space that was centering marginalized people in the presence of a dominant group.

Racial exclusion and trying to achieve the equilibrium ratio of white:BIPOC at a party only creates an illusion of equality. It creates a temporary feeling of control for some and resentment for others when we could be using such events to create spaces that center marginalized groups and welcome allies simultaneously. Furthermore, it strengthened the perception that in settings where marginalized groups are in a central position, there is no space for white students. By acting in a manner that suggests there cannot be a space that centers marginalized groups while accommodating another dominant group, the hosts ended up creating the worst of both worlds. 

Sameer Halepoto

Hi! I’m a third-year student majoring in Economics with a minor in Computer Science. Besides writing for the Phoenix, I am the co-president of 180 Degrees Consulting and treasurer of the club squash team!

40 Comments

  1. It was quite clear to me as a white queer person that the “white people” the organizers were asking to leave were the white, cisgendered, straight males that made the party feel suffocating because of their presence. The party felt safe until about 50 of them came in practically at once and began shoving their peers, causing some be pushed out of the windows of Paces. When I left the party, I was accosted by two students coming up to me saying “hey you’re queer right, how do I get in?” which was distasteful and a microaggression, and jarring at the very least. Another pair insisted they were boyfriends and were caught in the lie and got pissy (which was funny imo). Clearly, the non-white queer people they were asking to leave did not give a shit about the identity groups that party was organized for and by–they never will unless it benefits them in some way.

    White people have safe spaces–you know, we live in a white supremacist nation so practically everything is safe for us (yes, before someone comments, I am aware of intersectionality; I am aware that whiteness does not always provide safety, especially when coupled with disability, queerness, being low-income, etc), but it is disingenuous to proclaim that a party, very clearly labeled for members of SQU and associated affinity group needs to prioritize or even really care about the feelings of every single white student on campus lol. We should probably reflect on why this article is being written in the first place: as soon as marginalized people force space for themselves to feel safe and have fun, suddenly it’s discrimination towards white people on the basis of race and it’s posted anonymously on instagram gossip pages where there can be no real criticism or accountability– non-queer people who identify as white weren’t supposed to be there in the first place, so of COURSE they are going to be expected to leave when the amount of people in the party surpassed fire code and was proving to be unsafe. It requires bare minimum thought to understand the actual dynamics of what happened that day.

    • Ridiculous to say that commenting anonymously is meant to prevent “real criticism or accountability”. You and I both know that if someone were to voice their anger over this actual racial exclusion then you would absolutely try and cancel that person, threaten their ability to find a job/get into grad school.

      But obviously you’d criticize people speaking out anonymously. You love the fact that people are afraid to speak their minds because of your “criticism or accountability” (rabid mob justice). You love the power to ruin the lives of anyone who dares to oppose you with their name attached.

      If white people have to be afraid for their future if they dare to speak out, and when you break school rules by excluding white people and remain unpunished by admin… Perhaps we have a legitimate claim that, at least on this campus, we are also marginalized people.

      • you’re insane if you think that being kicked out of one party is equivalent to the continual injustices faced by students of color on this campus. just so embarrassing.

        • You all keep alluding to these grave horrible injustices on campus, as if it’s self evident, as though I should not question the notion that swarthmore college is a place of evil white supremacy. Show me the fucking proof. Show me some act of extreme racism comparable to telling everybody of one race to leave a party because they are that race, and facing no consequence for it.

        • I’m insane?? I’m not the one asserting that swarthmore college is inundated with racists when there’s literally no evidence of that.

          Above, we have an actual example of racial discrimination (against white people). You seem to believe that the occasional offhand or distasteful comment, which is almost never intended to cause harm, is somehow a far greater sin than literally kicking out white people because they’re white. Give me some evidence that’s actually relevant to anyone on campus right now.

          The crux of your argument, and really every argument I’ve seen justifying what happened, is that this school is somehow infused with white supremacy. What’s embarrassing is your willingness to base your entire worldview on what amounts to an unfalsifiable assumption.

          • yo read the frat documents and try to reckon with the fact that in this past decade the campus party spaces were heavily dominated by white men who TYPED OUT SENT AROUND AND SAVED racist slurs- if that’s happening then there’s no basis for doubting that less well documented instances persist- and regardless it is hands down impossible to say the party space is inclusive. there’s your evidence . So if you ask to be shown “some act of extreme racism comparable to telling everybody of one race to leave a party because they are that race, and facing no consequence for it.” maybe you should read the FUCKING NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE PUBLISHED ABOUT THIS SCHOOL IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS BEFORE YOU come here. Fucking hell just transfer

  2. “Furthermore, it strengthened the perception that in settings where marginalized groups are in a central position, there is no space for white students.”

    Whaaaaaaaa LMFAOOOOOO

  3. This article is rife with intellectual gaps and misrepresentations of the state of racial politics in America and on Swarthmore’s campus.

    Firstly, contrary to the author’s opinion, the SQU party was, in fact, not a space traditionally occupied by white people; while Pub Nite at Paces is mot definitely a traditionally white space, a SQU party cosponsored by SASS, SASA and ENLACE is just not a “traditionally” white space. This event had never even happened before; how could it be a traditionally white space? The party, to any keen observer, was clearly a space for queer people as indicated by SQU’s sponsorship, and more specifically a space that centered queer people of color, as indicated by the cosponsorship of SASS, SASA and ENLACE. Most definitely it is possible to have a situation in which queer people of color are centered but white people and straight people are still present; this situation is quite literally a party in which when white people begin to commit micro-aggressions, or in any other way create a problematic racial dynamic, they are asked to leave. Observant readers will notice that this is just a description of the aforementioned SQU party. This party was not attempting to achieve an “equilibrium ratio,” only to create safety.

    The author of this article continually analyzes the events of the SQU party without interpreting those events in the context of every other event that happened outside of that specific context, namely the racism and microagressions that are continually imposed upon Black, brown and indigenous students here. To examine the events of that party outside of that context misses the point, because the point is that whatever emotions white students felt in that moment of being asked to leave pale in comparison to the experience of Black, brown and indigenous students, who have had to continually deal with racism their entire life. For Black, brown and indigenous queer people they experience the unique interlocking oppressions of racism and homophobia. For, Black, brown, and indigenous queer women, they experience racism, homophobia and the patriarchy.

    In the context of the weight of the aforementioned oppression is just one night, just one party, and just one time being asked to leave really so bad that it is worth raising such a fuss over? Simply put, white people need to get over themselves, and ask themselves why this one moment affected them so deeply. Is it because for once in their life, whiteness had momentarily been decentered? Because for once in their life, they weren’t automatically accepted into a space that they thought they deserved to be accepted into? White people could have drank anywhere that night; none of them had to go to Paces. There were no consequences for them, besides not being able to be drunk in a party in which the organizers wished to center queer people of color. Sure, some people will complain that the organizers should have been more clear in their intentions. Some people will claim that the organizers had no right to be so disrespectful of other students, particularly white queer students. The author, in fact, calls the actions of the organizers “discrimination.” I disagree. The definition of discrimination, to “make an unjust or prejudicial distinction in the treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, sex, age, or disability” includes very specifically that the distinction made between people based on their race must be unjust, or prejudicial. Why is it unjust to ask white people and straight people to leave a space where their presence is making the people around them uncomfortable? The article conveniently leaves out the microagressions mentioned in the first comment, as well as further microagressions such as white students yelling “white power!” upon being forced to exit the party. While it is still unknown who did it, the SQU room was trashed after the announcement. However, even without the context of the microagressions, to call this “discrimination” is to be misguided; it is not unjust to ask white people to leave a space intended for queer people of color, even if the white people being asked to leave were unaware that the cosponsorship of SASS, SASS, and ENLACE implies that the space is being created for queer people of color. For all of the white people crying discrimination, I would say that as the people that came up with racial discrimination, you all should know what it is. There is a fundamental distinction between the request that white people leave a party and racial discrimination. Are people really going to argue that the just thing to do was to do nothing, because calling out and attempting to rectify a specific racial dynamic is “discrimination?” Furthermore, it was not just white people that were asked to leave, it was straight people, which, clearly, the party was intended to cater toward. Again, the author of the article conveniently leaves out this fact.

    The author argues that “it is difficult to enforce limitations on who gets to be a part of an affinity group and who does not,” and that “the message created an incentive for students to falsely identify with a marginalized identity.” However, that some students wanted to be in a space not intended for them so badly that they are willing to lie about their identity says something more about the students that would lie than the aforementioned limitations. Why are Swarthmore students so willing to lie about their identity (as we saw on Saturday; see the comment above)? Is it perhaps because they are being disrespectful of the actual weight of the experiences that constitute the life of someone with a marginalized identity, and feel that their momentary pleasure at a party is more important than not denigrating the experiences of their marginalized peers? This may be a problem that the campus should address, rather than adjudicating if it is ok to ask white people to leave a SQU+SASS+SASA+ENLACE party.

    The author also brings up the point that not all Latine people are not white; however, Latine people understand that some of us are white while other of us are mestizaje, Black, indigenous, or of Asian descent. Latine people have the full capacity to distinguish ourselves by race, even within the context of ENLACE. Latine people did not choose to be lumped together; the organization of ENLACE exists simply because Latine is a label that has been forced upon us by the white society around us. Thus, the fact that there are white Latine people within ENLACE once again says more about the strength of racism than about the absurdity of asking white people to leave a party.

    There is a further contention in the article that the actions of the organizers “only sowed further division on campus at a time when such issues are especially salient.” This is a grossly incorrect statement. These issues are most definitely not now especially salient; they have always been salient. From the moment Swarthmore began admitting Black students in the 1960s, to face white supremacy has been a common, if not ubiquitous and inescapable, experience of Black, brown, and indigenous students on this campus. Furthermore, there has always been division on this campus. If racism could be solved with people simply deciding to put away their divisions, it would have been solved in this way a long time ago. In fact, these divisions are felt by Black, brown and indigenous students daily. It was only in this particular moment that white people began to feel the division; yes, this strength of white ignorance normally disguises the extent of racial division to white students, but this event did nothing to add to the division. In momentarily decentering whiteness, it merely revealed the division that had previously been hidden from the eyes of white students by their ignorance. While the actions of the organizers may have, in the words of the author, created resentment, why would this one tiny incident in a life full of privilege create such resentment? Ultimately, to be truly empathetic to the experiences of queer people of color would be to respect the decisions of the organizers, not to feel resentful at simply being asked to leave a party. To expect so little of white people, and straight people, only reinforces inequality.

  4. I don’t understand the purpose of Swarthmore’s campus publication anymore. For years the paper has veered in all kinds of directions but I have to say the most recent iteration is concerning. It’s taken a wicked and I would even say scary turn with opinion and non opinion pieces like this and many others. I am concerned about this material being taken as majority sentiments of students. Not to mention how this material feeds students “press” toxicity that limits how they are understanding their own experience. I don’t know what can come from this. Does the campus have a student association? Do they have the ability to spur conversations about dissolution of a publication? …

    • It’s an op ed.. the purpose is to allow students to share their opinions and for people to engage with them in a community conversation. (Almost exactly what’s happening here). The publication didnt publish this as a news article, they’re publishing the author’s opinions and no one thinks it’s the majority opinion (unless, of course, it actually is) which in this case it might even be.

      • if you don’t understand that an op-ed is a reflection of an individual’s personal opinion maybe it’s time to brush up on your piss-poor media literacy skills there buddy

        • NOOOO YOU CAN’T SHARE YOUR OPINION IF I DON’T AGREE WITH IT THAT’S TOXICITY

          have you ever considered that maybe you and those like you are the toxic ones?

  5. sussing out ways to force a newspaper to disband over the publication of an op ed you personally dislike is absolutely fucking delusional and authoritarian. calling for censorship of student publications is a ridiculous plea and tbh you have got to be an absolute moron not to see how it’s a slippery slope. institutionalized censorship of students doesn’t become okay when it comes to an opinion that you personally dislike. ideas like yours are what happens when people decide to engage with political ideas without first developing any capacity for critical thought.

  6. Genuine question as an alum:

    What party spaces still exist on campus with the fraternities disbanded? My recollection from my time on campus is one of the frats would host a party, another campus org might host one at Paces, and then Olde Club would sometimes have live music, but not necessarily every weekend.

    Practically speaking, it seems incredibly difficult for any group to host an affinity-based event when there are no viable alternatives for other students. Chaos at the door seems inevitable with this set up. Whether or not having affinity-based parties with SAC (if that still exists?) funds is “right” is an important question. But perhaps a more practical question might be whether it is even possible. On a campus with over a thousand students, who decides which hundred get to use Paces on a Saturday night?

    • The whole affair is a symptom of Admin’s mismanagement. It’s basically a first-come, first-serve signup, with somewhat limited time windows. Hosts face lack of party funding and discipline for parties that get too big, rowdy, drunk, or long (all nearly inevitable given the dearth of alternate party options most nights, small capacity of paces, large number of students trying to go out, and lack of Swat team staff to keep things under control). There’s effectively a manufactured scarcity of party spaces.

  7. So some feel intimidated by ‘white athletes’, while no mention is made of ‘white athletes’ creating any issues that were discriminatory while being there, in support of the LGBTQ communities. While some may get drunk, is that not something to be said of others?

    I think its counter productive to be bigoted and stereotypically hateful, while continuously demanding equality and fair treatment based on an individuals words and actions.

    Are we not accountable to ourselves and others, or should we accept the blindly broad strokes of hate to paint everyone based on their skin color or racial backgrounds?

    Such actions will harm the very communities they are verbally claiming to support. When LGBTQ individuals are singled out and discriminated against in the future, I hope you will reflect upon this incident and realise that hate will only breed more intolerance and injustices.

    We can call someone out for their words and actions; but racial intolerance of any group, is intolerance of us all. If we can’t become the change we demand of others, then what hope is there for this generation to make the differences we dream of.

    Anyone singled out based upon race, is an injustice that must not be tolerated.
    These are exactly the types of incidents that tend to drive people to extreme thinking and polarise communities. We must resist this polarisation and come together to work together and stand against such bigotry and unjustified hate and intolerance.

    I don’t care what group or groups you imagine yourself to be included in; but as soon as you exclude others from your embrace and push them away, do not be surprised or outraged when they return to you an equal measure of ignorance.

    We can lead…only when we embrace the justice and equality we all desire and claim to dream of.

  8. I am so sick of hearing about your sexual orientation and gender crap and who you sleep with!! Nobody gives a rats fucking ass but you insecure psycho mf’ers! Just stfu. Your entire life is now about gender, race, sexual orientation, pronouns, abortion. My god you idiots will be 50 years old sooner than later, grow up and get on with your pathetic victimhood lives already, the WORLD IS OVER YOU AND THIS BULLSHIT.

  9. I think its time to stop your indoctrination to racism.

    Attacking white people all the time is getting boring.

    Look at yourself first… what kind of person are you really?

    Merit > Race.

  10. So, in the year 2021 it literally has become acceptable to propose excluding people of a specific race from a college party. I thought my parents has successfully fought against segregation back in the sixties. I must have been mistaken.

  11. How much do your parents pay for you to go to this school? What a gaggle of miserable, insecure, pointless little buffoons! Do any of you possess any real, valuable, marketable skills? Wait until you have to pay back your loans hahaha
    Grow the hell up you pathetic little spoiled victims with your dumbass gender shit and pronous. Nobody gives a fuck. Learn a trade. Get laid. Stop being a bunch of race obsessed little bitches. My God you’re so pathetic. The sane, well-adjusted, normal, productive people in the world are laughing their asses off at how shallow and inane people like you are.

  12. I can only imagine the response of you & yours if the very same people tossed out of these parties decided to band together and have a “whites only” kick-ass party.

    All you are doing is fomenting a new breed of racism. You are intentionally putting one side against the other. What then? Tell the LGBTQ crowd that they need to toss out the straights?

    You are attempting to destroy decades of work toward equality and send us back a century or more.

  13. What a blithering IDIOT. Preaching intolerance while ….fighting intolerance? You people are absolutely insane. BTW, I’m a proud Indian-American and I would never kick out my own husband (who is white) out of a party. Sameer Halepoto, you need help.

  14. Student groups are allowed to have registered, private parties in party spaces, and they should take advantage of that. If you host a public party, the general rule is that anyone can come and it’s not up to the party organizers. If you host a private party, the party organizer can say at the door “hey, this is a private event hosted by XYZ student group, for members of XYZ student group and their guests.”

  15. I think its counter productive to be bigoted and stereotypically hateful, while continuously demanding equality and fair treatment based on an individuals words and actions.

  16. I love the insanity of the Diversity and Inclusion people, especially when they have a little power to abuse. The most shallow minded people are the Identitarian Cultists in college

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