Professor's tweets under fire, but why are folks offended?
Saida Grundy’s position as an assistant professor at Boston University (a position that she hasn’t even started yet) is under attack because of a series of tweets she posted recently about white men on college campuses, slavery and systemic racism.
In one, she said, “No race, outside of Europeans, had a system that made slavery a personhood instead of temporary condition.” The African American studies and sociology professor followed up with a few more tweets about slavery and concluded with, “In other words, deal with your white s**t, white people. Slavery is a Y’ALL thing.”
She could have wrapped up her statements (again, on her personal Twitter account) in a blanket of stodgy academic language, but the gist of what she was saying is not false or offensive. American slavery was brutal, and white people were the main perpetrators and beneficiaries of said system.
Other tweets that some found offensive include one where she said, “Why is white America so reluctant to identify white college males as a problem population?” The SoCawlege.com site took umbrage with that:
“Why are young white males a singled out issue to you Ms. Grundy, as opposed to all young males? If you are going to work at Boston University you have to teach college aged white males eventually no? You probably already have/are working with them. To us, this seems like you are unqualified to grade their work as you clearly demonstrate some kind of special bias against them. They are a ‘problem population’ after all.”
Black men and boys are constantly singled out as a problematic demographic that requires harsh and unrelenting surveillance and policing. Any action by any black man in America is lumped into a web of pathology. Anything “bad” a black person does becomes a check mark against the entire race. White people, on the other hand, have not had that issue in America.
When the media gets hold of video of white college students gleefully chanting racist songs or when white young men are found guilty of raping schoolmates, it’s portrayed as a “few bad apples” type of narrative as opposed to something being wrong with the white male population. Grundy’s statement essentially shifts that line of thinking to put those types of behaviors in context.
Fox News and other right-leaning media outlets have written scolding op-eds about Grundy, and numerous tweets have called for her head and labeled her a racist.
As of Tuesday afternoon, a petition to have her fired has only garnered 81 signatures. Meanwhile, a Change.org petition to stand in solidarity with Grundy has nearly 1300 signatures. The hashtag #IStandWithSaida has been making some serious social media rounds.
Black people, especially young black people, have shown in the past year with the #BlackLivesMatter movement that social media can be a powerful tool with social justice.
For its part, Boston University (which is incidentally, Martin Luther King Jr’s alma mater) has essentially distanced itself from Grundy’s statements but has also reiterated her right to free speech:
The University does not condone racism or bigotry in any form and we are deeply saddened when anyone makes such offensive statements. The opinions expressed by Dr. Grundy, in what were seemingly private electronic messages, constitutes her opinion and we must recognize her right to have that opinion whether or not we agree.
When Grundy does begin her teaching duties, it is possible that there will be a protest of some kind on campus. It is imperative that Grundy continues to receive support. We need to have black professors on our college campuses. Their perspectives are necessary to help shape the minds of young adults who will soon be in the workforce, starting families and raising a new generation of Americans. By supporting Grundy and her work and her right to express her opinions, we add to the critical work of creating truly diverse and thoughtful communities.