Kalina Sawyer, Managing Editor, had an exclusive interview with Battle Kenney ’18, creator of the Facebook group, “United White Association,” which was later changed to “In Search of Truth.” You can read more about the Facebook group and the campus tension in result here. The article was conducted via email.
Q. What was your initial intention for starting United White Association?
A. My initial intention for starting The United White Association was to create an organization that was designed to give students a platform where they could freely discuss issues they did not feel they could bring up elsewhere. I wanted it to be a place where if you had strong opinions on any topic, you were encouraged to communicate those beliefs in a clear, rational, and meticulous argument. You could think of the club as a public “soap-box”, where students could prepare a presentation about a double standard, or similar issue, that they had identified in today’s culture. However, they should not think of the podium as a pulpit from which to rant. Their arguments would need to be based in fact and logic, as opposed to anecdotes or exceptions.
Q. Why did you decide to change the name of, and eventually dissolve, your organization?
A. I changed the name because Kanoe Montano brought up a strong and reasonable argument against it. What I took away from her reasoning was that the original name was not understood as being a commentary on double standards in today’s society, and was therefore misconstrued as being hateful, which it was not intended to be. I never really thought the name would be interpreted in such a way, because when I see something outrageous, I don’t immediately assume the worst, I explore it in order to either confirm my preconceived notions, or to refute them. I should have realized how provocative the title would be, and that this would be preventing people from looking further into the organization to identify its true purpose.
Q. Why do you think it was hard for people to understand that your group was not hateful or racist?
A. While I cannot answer for other people’s thoughts, some may have misunderstood the group as being hateful or racist because there are organizations in today’s society that are; which I stress this was not intended to be.
Q. You wrote on your personal Facebook page the night you made the Facebook group: “It’s coming, finally. The reclamation.” What did you mean by “reclamation”?
A. That was an inside joke between a friend and I in reference to something happening in World of Warcraft. It was not in any way related to my group.
Q. Many people have accused this group of having white supremacist undertones, mostly because of the name. However, you have consistently stated the mission of the group was not hateful in nature. Why, then, plant that seed in people’s minds with an inflammatory title like “United White Association”?
A. The original name of the group was meant to serve two purposes. Admittedly, one of the purposes was superficial, while the other purpose was more thoughtful. The superficial purpose was to be provocative and slightly outrageous. Apparently, I underestimated just how provocative of a title it would be. You could say that it was “click-bait”. The more thoughtful reason though had to do with the organization’s mission statement; “The organization promotes rational thought and encourages members to identify the double standards promoted in today’s culture.” The name, “The United White Association”, was just an example of identifying a double standard in today’s culture.
Q. Do you have any regrets about this situation?
A. While I do not have any regrets about the intentions behind the organization, if I could do it over I would have named the organization ‘In Search of Truth’ from the start as this would certainly have not incited such controversy and hatred on campus.
Q. Did any administrators from the College reach out to you during this time and pressure you to disband your group?
A. No administrators from the College reached out to me until after I had dissolved the group, and when they did, they did not try to pressure me to disband the group.
Q. Do you anticipate starting any other similar organizations in the future?
A. Less than likely, not only because of the strong negative reaction to the organization and myself, but also because I feel conservative, well-reasoned, political opinions are not welcome on this campus.
Q. Anything else you’d like to share with the student body, on behalf of yourself, your group, etc.? Anything you want to clear up?
A. One of the reasons I created this group is because one of the Forester Five is to
“Embrace Diversity”, and while the idea of embracing cultural diversity is ever present on campus, as it should be, embracing intellectual diversity is not. With the speed of the Internet, it looks like 72 hours is long enough for intellectual diversity to be eradicated without proper investigation by the most vocal students on campus. This disallowed the possibility of an organization for those students who do not feel welcomed by other organizations on campus.
I wish to again reiterate that the intention was not to be harmful, hateful, or exclusionary in any way, but to provide a forum for discussion with intellectually diverse thoughts and members. I now see that the title of the organization clouded many people’s ability to see the true purpose behind the organization.
Q. How do you feel on Lake Forest College campus after what’s transpired?
A. I mostly feel the same on campus, and try to not let other people’s thoughts or opinions influence how I feel or act on a daily basis. However, how people have treated me personally has shocked me and made me feel unwelcome on campus. I appreciate and recognize other people’s right to be upset and react how they see fit, but I would hope that they would be treated better than I have if they were to be a part of something so controversial.