The news that a freshman has founded a White Student Union at Georgia State University, one of the most diverse campuses in the country, has come across like a harmless college prank. In a summer filled with Paula Deen's allegations, racist rodeo clowns, George Zimmerman's acquittal, and Republican accusations of reverse racism by Pres. Barack Obama, an unofficial club for white kids on an Atlanta campus seems like something to be tolerated, if not indulged, especially after its founder said black students are welcome to join their celebration of "white identity." A recent poll found barely measured a shrug by Georgians, who supported the White Student Union by a 43%-36% margin.
But the Southern Poverty Law Center isn't taking this lightly and is keeping Georgia State's White Student Union on its watch list because of its founder's ties to white supremacist groups.
"I don't think there's any doubt that we'll be keeping an eye on it," said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center. "The connections with white nationalism are pretty clear."
Patrick Sharp, the 18-year-old Alabama native who started the group, thinks you're a racist for thinking he's a racist. All he's doing, he says, is starting a benign organization to help white students share their pride in their common European heritage.
"You know, to say this is some closeted or curtained white supremacy, it's pretty -- and I'll go ahead and turn their words around on them -- it's pretty ignorant and closed-minded," Sharp explained in a radio interview. "It's a pride organization, it's a cultural organization, what we have is not hate for any other group... Whites are becoming a minority... We have a voice, we're unique people, and we have every right to make that voice heard."
Sharp is right about white people becoming a minority -- though they are a plurality on Georgia State's campus. And whether or not you think the descendents of British, Irish, Scottish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, German, Dutch, French, Polish, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Greek immigrants comprise a single culture of white people, Sharp has every right to express himself.
But Sharp purposefully misleads people when he claims that his college club is not a "closeted or curtained" white supremacist group, says Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Potok's group has discovered that Sharp is active on several white supremacist websites.
In Dec. 2011, Sharp became a sustaining member of the neo-Nazi website Stormfront, which bills itself as "White Nationalist news and discussion for racial realists and idealists." On Stormfront, Sharp wrote that his father was "really sort of a race traitor" because he married a Filipino woman and supports mixed-race marriages.
Earlier this year, Sharp posted on American Renaissance, a website founded by Jared Taylor, a white nationalist leader who affect a high-minded racism that avoids slurs while espousing eugenics. Sharp blogged about a history of the 1960s civil rights movement in Birmingham written by a white nationalist. "Seeing as how this is my city," Sharp wrote, "I'll have to check this out."
Until confronted by The Signal, Georgia State's school newspaper, Sharp listed the Traditionalist Youth Network as a sister organization of his White Student Union. The TYN website equates diversity with "mongrelization" that threatens "white genocide" and called George Zimmerman's trial a "civil rights lynching." Recently, Sharp announced that he "cut ties" with the TYN, though he denied that the TYN's anti-diversity rhetoric constituted racism.
"Just because I don't support irresponsible immigration policies doesn't mean I don't like diversity," he said.
In fact, Sharp has posted radical views on diversity on his Facebook page, according Anti-Defamation League. In Feb. 2012, Sharp wrote, "The people carrying out these programs of White Genocide say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-White. Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White!"
Without a faculty advisory, Sharp's group will not become an official college club. And Georgia State's Black Student Alliance has thus far not taken a position on Sharp or the White Student Union. And if blacks and other racial minorities can have clubs, as many have asked, why shouldn't white kids get one?
To Potok, the difference between a black student union and a white student union is the difference between "defending the interests of often times despised minorities in the culture" and "protecting privilege or oppressing other people."
"It is a very different thing to form a racially homogenous group that represents minorities in society as opposed to forming a racially homogenous group that represent the majority, the dominant group," said Potok.
The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Sharp's group a "White Nationalist Minor League," but a front group for white supremacists has no place in the city where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. grew up. Tolerance has limits, and a white nationalist such as Sharp has no place on a campus celebrated for its racial diversity.
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