When students walked to their morning classes on May 6, they saw a QR code posted on the expression boards all over Eckerd’s campus with a simple message: “YOUR WHITENESS IS SHOWING.” After scanning, the code takes you to a black page covered in caution tape and disclaimer attached.
“This website exists to educate, challenge, and inspire...Discomfort and disgust are central, but so are curiosity and excitement. We are telling a story, one systemically excluded.”
The website Disruption went live on May 6 after months of work from the four students of the Eastman Citizenship Leadership Program. Disruption guides its audience through the racism and segregation in St. Petersburg history against Black and Indigenous peoples as well as Eckerd’s culture of whiteness.
“We all have a lot of problems and things that we have to work through, but in order to do that we have to be really blunt about what those problems are,” Alex Gordon, one of the creators, said. “I feel like we’ve been skirting around them for a long time.”
The website is only available until Monday, May 10 in order to put pressure on the community to read the message, according to Summer Vishnu, another collaborator on the project.
The website emphasizes the discomfort it intends to bring, especially for those with white bodies. Because the difficult conversations the website addresses viewers are asked to first view the “settled bodies” tab. This section takes viewers through meditative exercises and lists individual and group self care habits. The Eastman Leaders explained that this is included because of the discomfort and trauma that comes with discussing racial injustice and privilege.
The next section on whiteness discusses that the privilege of being white goes beyond skin color and is tied to our social constructs. It cites “White Fragility” (2018) author Robin DiAngelo in describing whiteness as something that impacts people of all races and then discusses examples of white fragility at Eckerd.
The site references recent events like the first ECOS debate that ended with candidates referring to Afro-American Society members as “aggressive” and Jay-Z-Easter, an unofficial Eckerd event rooted in racist caricatures and drug-related stereotypes.
“Part of the privilege of whiteness is that the only people who ‘don’t see color’ are the people who don’t have to see it,” the site says.
The next section on land acknowledgment focuses on the fact that Eckerd College was built on land that originally belonged to Indigenous nations like the Seminoles and Tocobaga. The Eastman Leaders worked with the Diversity Action Council (DAC), who provided them with a brief statement from which they plan to expand next semester.
“We recognize the profound resilience of Seminole, Miccosukee, Muscogee, Choctaw, and people of other Native groups who, despite centuries of colonial oppression, continue to call Florida home,” The statement from DAC said.
The Eastman Leaders said this project started off as a mural on campus to acknowledge that Eckerd is built on land that belonged to Native American nations. During this semester, their idea shifted into a website that would be more accessible and that could be achieved with less barriers than a mural would cause. The project also transformed to include the topic of race and whiteness along with land acknowledgement after the racial incidents that happened over the semester.
The “Your Community” section focuses on physical racial segregation that has been a historic problem in St. Petersburg. It explains how Eckerd contributes to the isolation of the Black community through microaggressions. This section of the website also provides videos on the history of racism in St. Petersburg.
“If you still think our campus is a liberal arts oasis that is void of any racism or microaggressions we advise you to continue exploring this website and the resources we have linked further. This community is not a safe space for all people of all identities,” the page says.
The final section “Action” lists organizations to donate to and volunteer with like the Boys and Girls Club: Seminole Tribe of Florida. It gives other books that viewers can read like “How to be Anti-Racist.” The entire website lists different books, videos and websites that the Eastman Leaders hope that viewers will use to continue further educate themselves.
“It's a tool and not a solution…. It's a means for people to take action,” Leah Totman said of the website.
The creators of Disruption sought advice from Eckerd staff and faculty like Amanda Hagood, Morgan Harthrone, Ronald Porter and Dawn Shedden, who provided them with some of the resources on the site.
The website uploaded the same day as a “Black Students Matter” protest organized by Afro-American Society. Although both groups were in communication with each other about their plans, the protest and website are not connected, according to Vishnu. The protest will be held between the Seibert Humanities and Upham Administration buildings from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.