Even My Hate Mail Reveals White Privilege

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By Mark Naison (April 30, 2018)

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 in 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. This is startlingly different from what I have experienced when I comment about race in America for CNN, 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.

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