By Holly Williams

Elm Staff Writer

On March 27, a mayoral candidate meeting in Savannah, Georgia hung a sign on the door that said “Black Press Only!” At least one white journalist was turned away at the door, and no audio or video recordings were allowed inside the meeting.

Since, the story of one campaign meeting for a local election has become of national interest, generating a polarized response from outrage to support.

Bolton Street Baptist Church, a historically black church that gained recognition for its mobilization efforts during the Civil Rights movement, hosted the event.

The church has stated they were not the decision-makers to only allow black press inside, but that a third-party organizer was: the Trigon Group. The Trigon Group has declined to comment on the policy.

One mayoral candidate who spoke at the meeting has since apologized for his participation, additionally suggesting that he would go to a meeting that was “whites only” if he were invited.

The church’s statement on the event hasn’t stopped critics from voicing their anger on social media. Reviewers taking to the church’s Yelp page decried the apparent hypocrisy of preaching inclusion while only allowing one race in the meeting. A Reddit thread on the topic has garnered a little under two thousand comments. Some YouTubers have told people not to complain when they host “all-white” political events.

To some, this event is indicative of reverse racism against white people. Some argue that if the roles were reversed, the church and the Trigon Group would likely be shut down forever.

You might feel that this event only contributes to our country’s problem with racial divisiveness, and that the Trigon Group poorly executed whatever message they intended to send, but what is pro-black isn’t anti-white. The unfair stance to take is that white people are victims in this situation.

To see a “black space” as discrimination against white people is a false equivalency. An event that’s solely made for a minority doesn’t threaten the majority, it gives them a voice and meeting space when they can often be hard to find.

Most of America is already a “white space,” a setting traditionally occupied by white people, especially journalism and politics. Any white journalist who couldn’t cover this one meeting is still likely going to benefit from higher pay and representation in the industry that their minority counterparts.

Non-white journalists make up less than 17 percent of staff at daily newspapers, and white people make up 79 percent of the publishing industry. Seven pay-equity studies of major newsrooms found women to be paid less than men, and minorities to be paid less than whites. Despite a record high of 52 black representatives in Congress, there are no black governors and only three black senators.

Unfortunately, what Trigon Group intended when they hung that flyer is conjecture. What we know for sure happened, however, is that two black candidates met with the local black community to talk about collaboration during the election season, and they wanted only black press to report on this meeting. Like how Eleanor Roosevelt hosted “women reporters only” press conferences for women’s issues, this was a space meant to unite and empower one group.

One need look no farther in recent memory (though if they did, they’d find plenty more examples) than the two black men arrested for sitting in a Starbucks, or a white student calling the police on a black graduate student at Yale for napping in the common room, to see that black people are criminalized, marginalized, and oppressed by white people when they enter traditionally white spaces.

While we work on making our spaces more accessible, and combatting our own biases, it’s not our role to feel threatened by every black space. We should respect them, and if you are angry they exist, try to understand why they are needed to begin with.

The Elm

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