Posts Tagged ‘ Kaitlyn Whiteside ’
By Kaitlyn Whiteside
I came on the ride as a history major; I’ll leave as a patriot.
My fascination with the civil rights movement started in 2009 when I began an independent research project on the desegregation of Chattanooga, TN. I continued to study the evolution of the expanding movement during the rest of my time at Georgia Tech as I engaged more and more both inside and outside the classroom. This year, as Vice President of Campus Affairs for the Student Government Association, I initiated and organized a campus-wide event focused on civility and inclusion attended by over 300 students. I also drafted a proposal advocating for a campus cultural center at Georgia Tech.
And yet, for the most part, my involvement was simply surface level. I didn’t truly understand the potential impact that I, or my projects, could have. I went through the motions, implementing changes that I thought were necessary but without the overwhelming passion that my fellow student freedom riders seem to possess. For that, I thank them. I thank them because they’ve inspired me in ways that I didn’t expect, inciting energy and desire that I forgot I could have. I’m not sure if it is the environment, the diversity of the group, or simply the awe-inspiring presence of the original Freedom Riders, but something is in the air that allows a free-flowing exchange of ideas that is unlike any experience I’ve ever had the opportunity to take part in.
While I won’t be going back to make sweeping changes on my campus, I hope that the lessons I learned here will take root in my life and evolve into the same sort of intoxicating passion that allowed the 1961 Riders to risk their lives to “get on the bus.”
By Jayanni Webster
Talking with you the other night in our Charlotte hotel room, I watched as you opened your heart and expressed your frustrations in knowing that you benefited from white privilege. I sensed you felt limited by your skin color because for you, being an ally was not enough, being an “associate” to the struggle was not enough. Like you said, you have the option of leaving this ride and going back to your home and not deal with issues of racism and racial oppression while others on the bus, like myself, do not.
I know you will continue to wrestle with these feelings and continue to do the right thing. But I want to extend a helping hand because I saw in you, in that moment, an immeasurable amount of love and maturity.
If you look up the word ally a few phrases come up:
- To unite formally
- To associate or connect by some mutual relationship, as resemblance or friendship
- To enter into an alliance, join or unite.
- A person, group, or nation that is associated with another or others for some common cause or purpose
Joan Mulholland, a white student on the original Freedom Rides, is an inspiration to us all. She in my eyes is not just an ally and quite frankly has never been. She’s a Freedom Rider. The ratio of black and white students who participated in the rides was nearly 50/50. In being an ally, Joan and all these others made a dangerous sacrifice—facing bodily harm, condemnation and death along with black students. That load was and is still a heavy one. Being an ally does not make them less valuable than those whose rights they were and are still fighting for.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualist concerns to the broader concerns of humanity.”
Kaitlyn you are living. And to be alive is to grapple with these issues like you did. Continue to be that activist, that innovator and problem solver because you are making a difference.
I learned as a Facing History and Ourselves student that to recognize a common human struggle and to take action about it is to be an “upstander” rather than a bystander to injustice. For me, an “upstander” goes beyond the realm of being an ally and really speaks to what Joan and others did and what we should inspire future generations to do as well.
By Kaitlyn Whiteside
Today I came to terms with being White.
I sit on the bus beside these incredible riders, both young and old, and I hear their stories about oppression, discrimination, and racism. I think about my background, searching for some story to offer as a condolence, an explanation, a possible similarity of struggle but all I come up with time and time again is privilege, luck, and incredible circumstance. By all accounts I have lived the ultimate American, White, middle-class life: stay-at-home-mom, private school, family all around, college education… love and support surrounding my each and every decision. For most of the afternoon I wallowed in misunderstanding. How can I even sit on this bus and pretend to belong here? How can I possibly relate to challenges and obstacles that these people have faced and more importantly, will continue to face once we leave New Orleans and go home. If I wanted to, I could forget I ever stepped foot on this bus, forget I met these incredible people, and go back to Atlanta to my friends, my sorority, my job and let “the race debate” be something I save for intellectual play time. But for people of color, they’ll go home and without question, whether they like it or not, will continue to face these issues every minute of every day. I felt like a fraud sitting around the table tonight, an idealistic do-gooder, desperate to somehow understand and turn this cause, their cause, into my cause. But I don’t want to be an ally. I don’t want to watch the struggle play out from the sideline as I cheer on without real involvement. I want to be an activist, an innovator, a problem-solver. My whiteness must become irrelevant. I want to get drawn in not by default or accident of birth, I want to get drawn in, like Joan, because I want to make my home a better place and for right now, my only option is to do that in the skin I was born in.
Freedom Rides Again
By Jeanne Bonner
Forty college students, including two from Georgia, are retracing a seminal Civil Rights-era journey. Fifty years divides the two trips, but the students will depart from Washington, D.C., just as the original Freedom Riders did in 1961. As the students prepare for the bus trip, they are learning how much the Freedom Rides changed life in America. Read more…