A professor at Florida Gulf Coast University started a class about “white racism,” and the backlash was so severe that he felt he had to request a police presence on the first day of class.
On Tuesday, Ted Thornhill, an assistant professor in the university’s sociology department, offered the “White Racism” course, which he said was designed to look at the way “racist ideologies, laws, policies and practices” are used to “maintain white racial domination.”
Unsurprisingly, several people took offense to the title of the class. According to the News-Press, Thornhill sent police 46 pages of emails and voice messages about the class, some of which contained threats and racial slurs.
“Out of an abundance of caution, I, along with the administration, thought it was most prudent to request the presence of law enforcement on the first day,” Thornhill told The Washington Post. “Nobody can predict what will happen.”
Thankfully, though police came to campus on Tuesday and were stationed by the classroom, the first day of class went off peacefully.
Don’t take it so personally
Thornhill said that he wasn’t surprised that people took the class personally.
“It’s not simply the title. … As a sociologist, I tell my students all the time, they need to depersonalize. It’s not all about you,” Thornhill said. “I’m not talking about specific white individuals. I’m talking about a group racialized as white. So many people in this hyperindividualized society, they tend to take all this personally. They think they’re being attacked.”
He had also released a statement earlier explaining his position, saying, “Clearly, not all white people are racists; some are even anti-racist. However, all people racialized as white derive, in some measure, material and psychological benefits by virtue of being racialized as white.”
Thornhill had to increase the cap on his class from 35 to 50 because of an interest in the course, and he said that he plans to continue to teach it in the future.