Throughout my time at Purdue I have heard many students questioned why Purdue has a Black, Latino, Native American, and Asian cultural centers and not a white cultural center. This questioning comes from primarily white students wanting a center dedicated to their culture similar to what other groups have.
This was the question that a group of students in Educational Studies at Purdue explored. For their final project for their course they developed a pop up Purdue White Cultural Center that was located in the Stewart center and Union Commons and attracted many students.
The cultural center took a satirical approach and aimed to prove the point that Purdue does not need a White Culural Center. They had displays showing the way White Americans have historically and currently appropriated other cultures and claimed them as their own. It also displayed the ways colonization and privilege were used to establish dominance and the effect they had on minority groups.
The pamphlets that the groups was handing out provided a scavenger hunt asking students to identify things that represented the history of people of color outside of their respective cultural centers. For instance it asked “Find a Purdue president that is a racial minority”, “Find a street or building on campus named after a person of color”, and “Find a purdue mascot that represents a racial minority”. This shows that Purdue’s campus is made up of white culture diminishing the need for a center.
On Purdue’s campus, white students are the majority and white leadership and history is clearly displayed. There isn’t a need for a White Cultural center at purdue because it is all around us from John Purdue and Stephen Beering, to Amelia Earhart and Martin Jischke. From this the group aimed to show that the purpose of a cultural center is to create representation where it is not present and to provide a space of learning and engagement where students of color can go and not feel like a minority.
According to Emma Noelke, one of the students who created the White Cultural center, there were mixed reactions from students who stopped by, but everyone was able to take away and understanding of why a White Cultural Center at Purdue would not be necessary.