Opinion: WT and the support of a white supremacist, in 2022

Ronny+Jackson%2C+representative+for+WT+and+Texas+Congressional+District+13+speaks+during+CPAC+Texas+2022+conference+at+Hilton+Anatole.+%28Aug.+6%2C+2022%29

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Ronny Jackson, representative for WT and Texas Congressional District 13 speaks during CPAC Texas 2022 conference at Hilton Anatole. (Aug. 6, 2022)

The Prairie News is a student-led free press.  All opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer and not those of WTAMU. 

On July 19th, 2022, the House of Representatives voted on H.R.8404, the “Respect for Marriage Act”, would “[provide] statutory authority for same-sex and interracial marriages.” West Texas A&M University’s congressman, U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Amarillo, voted against this bill that would legalize interracial and gay marriage at the federal level.

WT has recently been in controversy regarding acts of white supremacy on its campus and has been trying to rectify its image as a safe place for students of color and other minorities. In light of the summer of 2020, racial relations across the globe have become heated and money has flowed to multiple voices on the stage.

“I support Ronnie, so that’s why I’m kind of at a… I don’t know,” said Collin Williamson, officer of WT Turning Point USA organization, in regards to a question over the topic of the vote against H.R. 8404.

Both gay marriage and interracial marriage are currently only legal in the US because of the Loving and Obergefell decisions. Support for interracial marriage, as well as gay marriage is at an all time high, even among conservatives. Even though the vote passed in the US House, 157 house republicans voted against the bill.

Ronny Jackson poses with President Walter Wendler at the opening of the new Veterinary Education, Research, & Outreach (VERO) buildings. (Ronny Jackson’s Instagram, April 7, 2021)

“If [WT] wants to associate with them, okay. If they don’t, okay. We can’t control it, it’s based on politics, it’s based on money and whatever they decide to do is going to ultimately happen regardless of the student body,” said Hannah Pollard, a freshman music therapist major.

Like a lot of things on campus, students can only express opinions about ways that the University handles its business. WT relies on the support of Jackson to receive federal funding to improve and run the campus. The support of politicians to effectively run campus forces higher education, which has expressed views that contradicts the policies of its elected representatives, to co-exist.

“I do think [WT] needs to be more consistent with that and maybe get more out there when it comes to this kind of stuff because not a lot of people seem to know about it,” said Nakia De La Torre, freshman financial major.

When the University has good news to spread about its actions to be anti-racist, they widely share the information to everyone apart of the community. Just eight days before the vote in the house, President Walter V. Wendler sat down with a reporter with Inside Higher Ed to talk about a recent anti-racist move done regarding a plague honoring J. Evetts Haley, an alumni of WT and segregationist.

“Panhandle people are practically minded and desire facts to understand and process a complete story,” Wendler said. “It is a public debt owed to all by those engaged in higher education. The purpose of the university is to promote and nurture engaged citizenship. Such understanding may lead to progress.”

An accompanying plaque that was recently installed (right) outside of the Panhandle-Plains Historical museum showcases the modern perspective of a controversial figure, J. Evetts Haley, who is a part of WT history. (Sept. 20, 2022) (Marcus Rogers)

There is a lack of consistent messaging in terms of rectifying the harms done in the past and the current harms being done. As a gay cis-male, I have not felt safe on campus and I know many other minorities on WT’s campus feel the same way. All students deserve to feel safe. There should not be an endorsement of those that want there to be harm to anyone a part of the community.

“In terms of the community, everybody deserves the right to dignity and to be respected,” said an unnamed social work major. “I haven’t really seen a progression in terms of moving forward.”

Interracial and gay marriage has the potential of being overturned with a new slate of supreme court justices. The everyday working class people rely on the community of each other to survive these hard times and making the situation more harrowing by not being allowed to love who you love is just another step on the same path that a certain named group in Europe during the 1930’s followed.

During the process of the story, I reached out to a WT spokesperson, President Wendler’s office and Congressman Jackson’s office for comment.

WT’s comment: ”We don’t comment on pending legislation.”

President Wendler’s office comment: “We encourage you to reach out to Congressman Jackson’s office.”

Congressman Jackson’s office: “no response.”

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