A college course titled “White Racism” has ruffled quite a few feathers.
In fact, Florida Gulf Coast University — where the class is held — took extra security measures by placing two campus police officers on guard during the first session of the class on Tuesday.
“We have prepared for any possible distractions related to Tuesday’s first class of the White Racism course, but we are expecting normal campus civility as our students engage in this and other courses at the spring semester’s start,” Susan Evans, FGCU’s spokeswoman and chief of staff, reportedly told the News-Press.
For those who may be pondering what this seemingly-controversial class hopes to achieve, the course is designed to “interrogate the concept of race; examine the racist ideologies, laws, policies, and practices that have operated for hundreds of years to maintain white racial domination over those racialized as non-white; and discuss ways to challenge white racism and white supremacy toward promoting an anti-racist society where whiteness is not tied to greater life chances.”
Ted Thornhill, assistant professor of sociology, is instructing the class and has faced critical backlash as a result. His emails and voicemails have been flooded with hate and ignorance as news of the course spreads through campus.
“I can call a black man a n***er when it’s appropriate, and I do,” one of the agitated callers said in one of the voicemails. “I am not ashamed of it. It doesn’t make me a racist. If Jay-Z can say it and a black man can say it, I can say it.”
Another person emailed wishes of terminal illness upon Thornhill and his loved ones.
“Cancer (Stage 4) is what you and your family deserve for spreading hate, lies & intolerance,” the troll wrote.
Although none of the many messages Thornhill received actually threatened violence or protest, the decision to bring law enforcement on site was rooted in being proactive instead of reactive.
“I think most of us don’t anticipate there being any unrest or protest or anything like that,” Thornhill said. “But it’s more of a prudent measure to have law enforcement present just in case.”
The professor also forwarded nearly 50 pages of emails and some of the voicemails to campus police for their records.
“I take these type of things seriously, just like when people were writing racist things on the whiteboard and then posting things around campus,” he explained. “You never know what people are thinking and what they might be capable of. It’s good to be cautious.”
For safety reasons, Thornhill did not confirm or deny whether the security detail will remain throughout the semester, but he did assert his belief that “students don’t have anything to worry about except for completing their reading and doing their work and engaging with the material.”
Although the course may continue without any threats or disruption, the mere fact that Thornhill has received such an overwhelmingly negative response sheds light on a very serious problem. Having discussions around racism in a healthy and educational way should not warrant these nasty responses. Ironically, the backlash simply further demonstrates why there is the pressing need for a class of this nature.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Tulane Public Relations