My Black friends have always told me, “Mark, if you were Black, saying the things you do, acting the way you do, you would have been dead a long time ago.”
If you think they were exaggerating, read the article “The Ugly Truth of Being a Black Professor” in the April 29 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education about the death threats and insults the African American philosopher George Yancy is repeatedly deluged with when he comments about issues in commercial media. The great Fordham Theologian Father Bryan Massingale has had a similar experience, as have my friends Johnny Eric Williams and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, who teach at two of the nation’s top colleges.
This is startlingly different from what I have experienced when I comment about race in America for CNN (“‘White supremacists by default’: How ordinary people made Charlottesville possible“), or other media outlets. I get hate mail. I have scores of people telling me I should never be allowed to teach. But I have NEVER received a death threat or a rape threat or an email that begins ‘Dear n…..r Professor.’
Black people in positions of academic leadership, commenting on the issues of the day, bring out a kind of insecurity in too many whites that is easily transferred into violent fantasies, and in some cases, into violent actions.
No one should underestimate the power and prevalence of White Rage in this country. It is quite literally life threatening to Black people, even when they reach positions of influence through their talent and hard work.