May 11, 2015

Black professor criticizes white men

Another racial controversy broke out this week. This time it was a black professor tweeting mean things about white people.

Here's the first thing I read about the controversy--a right-winger's take on it:

Boston University Professor Tweets ‘Your White Ancestors Were Land Thieves, And Slave Owners–Nothing More’

By Lauren RichardsonBoston University Professor Saida Grundy, a feminist sociologist of race and ethnicity listed as an incoming assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at B.U., has come under fire for her Tweets that essentially argued that white people were the worst people, and biggest slave owners in history.

I could not have said this any better than Turtleboy:So let me get this straight. Saida Grundy is going to be teaching a whole bunch of white boys at BU in the near future. And she’s going into her job while publicly stating that “white college males” are a “problem population.” Not just SOME white college males, like the Oklahoma frat boys from the racist video. ALL white college males. They are all a “problem population.” I’m sure white dudes will definitely get a fair shake in her class next year. Definitely.

Note that Grundy didn't say all white college males. At most she said white college males in general, which is different.

In fact, the term "problem population" strongly implies it's a generalization about a group. Some people in this population are a problem.

So conservative critics are wrong from the get-go. As they usually are.

Critics defend poor white folks

Some people couldn't let the persecution of the underprivileged white majority go unchallenged:

Fox Host: ‘Last Acceptable Form Of Discrimination’ Is of White Men

By Ahiza GarciaFaulkner said the university was standing by Grundy, saying she was exercising her right to free speech. Faulkner then posed a question to Tantaros.

“If this were in the reverse and she were an incoming white professor saying this about black men, she would be eviscerated. No?” asked Faulkner, who is black.

“So this is the debate,” Tantaros said. “This is, I think, an applicable debate to ‘Is this free speech or is this hate speech?’”

“The last acceptable form of discrimination in this country now is two groups—one, Christians and, two, white men,” Tantaros said. “And that’s why she can get away with this. Why? Where are the organization in defense of white men? Where are the marches? Where are the editorials penned?”
Even some liberal writers joined in:

“Deal with your sh*t, white people”: Professor ignites a right-wing firestorm over “white college males as a problem”

Two recent university controversies have sparked discussion on just who can be racist and sexist

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
Over the weekend, BU spokesman Colin Riley issued a statement that “While we recognize that Dr. Grundy has the right to hold and express personal opinions, BU does not condone racism or bigotry in any form, and we are offended by such statements.” The university has not said whether Grundy faces any disciplinary action. And she has also found plenty of supporters, like student Noor Toraif, who told the Boston Herald, “You need to have institutional and systemic power in order to be racist. People of color like Professor Grundy don’t have that. … I’m 100 percent supportive of her and excited for her to come to campus.” That idea—that you can’t be racist if you’re a certain race—was echoed at Goldsmiths University this week when diversity officer Bahar Mustafa hosted “a BME Woman and non-binary event only” and then responded to criticism of the limited guest list by explaining, “I, an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist towards white men, because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender. Therefore, women of color and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist, since we do not stand to benefit from such a system.” Wow, really? They can’t? Ever? How conveniently self-exonerating!

You want to acknowledge that the way you look at the dynamics of race or religion or gender or orientation are profoundly influenced by whether or not you are a member of the group that traditionally wields the most power? I am entirely with you. You want to create safe spaces for typically marginalized groups? Got my support. You want to say that we live in a culture that overwhelmingly favors white people, males and heterosexuals? No argument there. But you want to say they’re the only groups that can be biased? Uh, no. You don’t have to go all hand-wringing about “reverse racism” or the supposed plague of misandry to still be really concerned about a university educator going on record as expressing serious and sweeping hostility toward any population, and passing off personal judgments as facts. And call me a crazy dreamer, but I believe there’s opportunity in this world for ANYBODY to be prejudiced. Anybody can be close-minded. Anybody can be wrong.
Rage at the machine

Others defended Grundy by noting the obvious: that she was tweeting provocatively to, well, provoke people. Not to deliver a nuanced lecture in 140 characters, but to vent at America's ongoing racism and sexism.

What Happens to Black Women Who Boldly Speak Truth About Racial Inequality

The controversies surrounding Michelle Obama’s commencement speech at Tuskegee and incoming Boston University professor Saida Grundy’s tweets remind us of the ways in which intellectually provocative black women are forced to navigate the public sphere.

By Peniel E. JosephMichelle Obama’s painful discussion of America’s racial inequality and deep misogyny exists, for many, on the same spectrum as Grundy’s blunt remarks about race, power and privilege. Where the first lady used her commencement speech at one of the nation’s premier HBCUs to deliver a seminar on institutional racism and our nation’s anti-black culture, Grundy’s social media commentary dispensed with complexity to deliver screams, sometimes angry, other times humorous, that reflect equally important truths about contemporary race relations, black women’s activism and the limits of freedom of expression in the 21st century.

The piercing anger behind Grundy’s tweets is rooted in recent events in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., a mixture of protests, demonstrations and violence that have, as she reminds us, made race an unavoidable topic. On social media, Grundy removed the academic hat for the identity that black women, including Michelle Obama, are always accused of donning—that of an angry black woman.

Neither Michelle Obama’s eloquence nor Saida Grundy’s passion can ultimately insulate them from the onslaught of criticism that, at its core, is based more on antipathy toward the messenger than on the meaning of her words. Allegations of reverse racism, hatred for America and a lack of patriotism are routinely wielded against America’s first lady, so it should come as no surprise that conservatives have now targeted Grundy for punishment.

The irony here is that some in America remain violently frightened of intelligent black women who achieve greatly, act boldly and move forward courageously in a world that continues, no matter how great their achievements, to find them unworthy of being allowed to succeed or fail on their own terms.
Comment:  For more on white privilege, see Whites Can't Handle Racial Stress and "It Feels Good" to Be White.

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