April 10: White Supremacy in Academia (Teaching and learning in a racist country)

This panel will feature Jessie Daniels (CUNY), Dorothy Kim (Vassar College), Ted Thornhill (Florida Gulf Coast University), and Johnny Eric Williams (Trinity College),

  • Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2018
  • Time: 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM
  • Location: Lehman Auditorium, 202 Altschul Hall at Barnard College

Day 2: White Supremacy in Academia

The university was founded on White Supremacy. Many are not aware that in the early 1800s, one in seven New Yorkers was enslaved. Our very own Columbia University, formerly Kings College, was founded with profits from the slave trade.

More recently, during the 1960s Civil Rights and Black Power movements, Columbia University attempted to seize public Harlem land in Morningside Park to build a gym. Harlem residents dubbed it Gym Crow because it was to have two separate entrances: one at the top for mostly white Columbia students and the other at the bottom for Harlem’s black residents. Plans for the gym were only cancelled when Black students took over Hamilton Hall during the famous student protests of 1968.

Over the years, black workers at Columbia have struggled for their own place in the university. A number of strikes between the 1950s and 1990s focused on institutional racism in hiring, promotions, and in Human Resources. In 1964 and 1967, Black and Puerto Rican cafeteria workers went on strike in the John Jay Dining Hall. In 1988, 1991, 2003, 2009, Columbia’s clerical workers went on strike over racial pay-gaps.

However, today, many think that White Supremacy is a thing of the past at Columbia University – that liberal bastion insulated from the racist Right. Yet the racial pay-gap is still pervasive and black professors and students remain underrepresented. Slave owners such as Thomas Jefferson and genocidal colonisers like Christopher Columbus remain the face of this university. In actual fact, Columbia University is the epitome of liberal non-racialism’s failure to transform and decolonise the university.

The resurgence of white supremacist fascist groups in the wake of political Trumpism has targeted outspoken indigenous, Black, and Muslim students and professors throughout the country.

The following speakers will tackle this threat head-on:

  • Jessie Daniels, Professor of Sociology at CUNY. Jessie’s work examines the themes of race and technology through the emerging field of digital sociology. She is the author of Cyber Racism (2009) and White Lies (1997).
  • Dorothy Kim, Professor of English at Vassar College. Dorothy is a medievalist, digital humanist, and feminist. See has written on the weaponization of the medieval past by white supremacist groups: Teaching Medieval Studies in a Time of White Supremacy
  • Ted Thornhil, Professor of Sociology at Florida Gulf Coast University. Ted is a critical race scholar focused on revealing uncomfortable racial truths. He has responded in The Conversation to the outrage over his new course: Why I teach a course called ‘White Racism’.
  • Johnny Eric Williams, Professor of Sociology at Trinity College. Johnny’s work examines culture’s role in politics, social movement mobilization and scientific knowledge production. His forthcoming book is called The Persistence of White Sociology.