The White Society as Reflected in PSU


Alex Antoniono

Protesters on Pollock Street near the HUB after moving away from the Thomas Building.

Eloise Dayrat, Editor in Chief

On October 24, 2022, Penn State University was meant to host Gavin McInnnes and Alex Stein for the comedy show Stand Back & Stand By — the name of the event referencing former President Trump’s words to the Proud Boys in 2020 at a presidential debate. Both McInnes and Stein were prompted to come by Uncensored America, a conservative student group at Penn State. McInnes is the founder of the Proud Boys, a far-right group of white nationalists who are classified as a terrorist organization in Canada and New Zealand. 

Penn State student money was meant to cover the cost of this event, summing up to a total of about $7,500 dollars to be spent on McInnes and Stein. Penn State defended the funding toward this event with the First Amendment and its incapacity to limit freedom of speech as a public institution. 

However, Penn State has never hesitated to silence or suppress voices in the past, to belittle them. Penn State staff and students of color have long felt silenced under Penn State administration. For a university preaching to fight for inclusivity, Penn State has taken every step in the opposite direction. Allowing for the platforming of a white supremacist, anti-semitic, violent organization, is not “foster[ing] and maintain[ing] a safe environment of respect and inclusion for faculty, staff, students and members of the communities.” 

McInnes has said, “I’m a Western chauvinist. I think the Western culture is the best.” 

The Western culture. The white society. To preach the Western culture is a radical continuation and furthering of already existing white life. A life that did not exist previous to the invention of race as a concept – a concept birthed in America. To have prepared a space for McInnes to speak his harmful rhetoric, to someone actively advocating against my very existence, is not respect

From Xaviera Simmons’ Crisis Makes a Book Club at the Queens Museum: Every form in which society has constructed itself in the US is already based on race. Whiteness is rewarded in “culture, employment, governance, health and health care, education, housing, pleasure, sensuality, and all other ways societies organize themselves.” 

Explicit enforcement of neo-colonial ideas that enhance disasters already created by Europeans is the current action of Penn State. McInnes pushes not only a harmful agenda but a violent one. One where democracy for the white is democracy for all. The Proud Boys see the world through a lens where all harm perpetrated by those of European blood on communities of color is erased. They have replaced it with a validation of systemic white supremacy, with a validation of acts ranging from the most evident to the most unimaginable human rights violations. 

Post over 81 million US votes going to President Joe Biden’s election, the Capitol was stormed by far-right protesters, many being visible supporters of Trump. From there, an investigation was launched and has been ongoing since. 

For Penn State to have given a platform to someone representing the group who initiated the January 6, 2021 capital breach is not showing care for citizens and their rights. It is not an action in accordance with the First Amendment; It demonstrates quite the opposite. 

It is a show of complacency with the Proud Boys, who violently went in contradiction of a core American belief– democracy. It is a show of complacency with fascism, white supremacist ideals, and anti-Semitism — a complacency with bigotry. 

Many community members and a multitude of Penn State students signed a petition against McInnes’ coming. Thousands of signatures were collected. And yet, in return Penn State presented our community with what only seemed like more excuses.  

“While the type of rhetoric these speakers regularly engage in does not represent the values of Penn State, our student organizations operate independent of the University and are free to sponsor programs or speakers of their choosing without censorship,” PSU leadership said

Your students represent your university values. You are meant to choose who to accept with basis in the content of their character and their alignment with university beliefs. To me, someone striving for a world of Western culture, of competition and individualism, of white supremacy, is not a person of integrity

As a result of no action taken on behalf of Penn State admin, the Student Committee for Defense and Solidarity (SCDS) pulled together a demonstration outside of the Thomas Building, where McInnes was meant to speak. 

The protest began around 6 p.m. with masses of students who showed up to demonstrate resistance against the far-right white supremacists’ agenda and the university’s enabling of it.

As a result of such a high turnout, McInnes and Steinn were unable to speak. The goal was achieved. Penn State canceled Uncensored America’s event due to rising threats of violence. Had administrators and leadership at PSU reflected even minimally about the probability of harm on behalf of the Proud Boys, and had they chosen to take action prior to quite literally minutes before, chaos and crisis could have been averted. 

Student safety counts for nothing unless it is that of your white students. The very presence of such people on the PSU campus is a threat to the security of students of color, professors of color, staff of color, as well as business owners, children, other community members of color.

In addition to the harm in allowing the event, the Pennsylvania State Police came. Heavily armed men on horses, on foot, or a few even in camouflage. An intimidation game. Not long after, the demonstration at the Thomas Building was intended to be shut down by local police. Multiple protestors faced tear gassing from Proud Boys affiliates. Penn State campus police stood, watched, and did nothing.  

Around 7 p.m., local media began to state that the gathering of students was unlawful, worrying community members of the possible ongoing turmoil. But SCDS organizers led protestors away from the Thomas Building — where police said they could no longer be — and directed them down Pollock Road. The police could take us away from the Thomas Building but not from the streets. 

From 7:20 onwards, protestors marched and chanted. Whose campus? Our campus. An energy of solidarity and resistance against Penn State’s continuous enabling of white supremacy. 

We do not find ourselves in a space, in a community, made for our safety. State College, or PSU more specifically, does not foster an environment where the work it takes to deconstruct a white society is possible. 

We are a town filled with many white people: queer white people, white academics, white feminist women and men, “and other creative professionals who descend from whiteness or are multicultural substitutes for this empire and its white ideological state.” Very few of them are capable or hold the capacity to “undo, unravel, admit, abolish, and make whole,” which is essential to granting not only a space to exist in America for people of color, but for reparations and reconstruction to our many communities touched by the white disaster as Simmons addresses it.

Penn State so unapologetically enforces and eases perpetual white supremacy, as it did with relation to McInnes and Stein’s presence on campus. PSU needs a complete renovation of perspective, it has been in dire need of it for a long time. 

Nonetheless, administrators fail in accountability. PSU leadership fails to see that the community they hold so dear to their heart is one — like the rest of America — structured on centuries worth of rewarding whiteness, of benefiting from the devastation of Black lives in every form possible, land theft of Indigenous communities, labor exploitation of brown immigrants, and all other possible ruin of identities of color. Penn State admin fails to see we are drowning under their promises of respect, under their white lies.