The Ugly Truth of Being a Black Professor in America

In this challenging article from the The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr. George Yancy shares his experiences as black professor at Emory University. In light of recent events, both locally and nationally, it seemed appropriate to post this. 

The Ugly Truth of Being a Black Professor in America

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By George Yancy April 29, 2018

“Dear Nigger Professor.” That was the beginning of a message that was sent to me. There is nothing to be cherished here, despite the salutation. Years ago, Malcolm X asked, “What does a white man call a black man with a Ph.D.?” He answered: “A nigger with a Ph.D.”

The message came in response to an op-ed I published in The New York Times in December 2015. I’d spent much of that year conducting a series of interviews with philosophers about race. I wanted to hold a disagreeable mirror up to white readers and ask that they take a long, hard look without fleeing. My article, “Dear White America,” took the form of a letter asking readers to accept the truth of what it means to be white in a society created for white people. I asked them to tarry with the ways in which they perpetuate a racist society, the ways in which they are racist. In return, I asked for understanding and even love — love in the sense that James Baldwin used the term: “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”

Instead, I received hundreds of emails, phone messages, and letters, an overwhelming number of which were filled with racist vitriol. My university did its important and necessary part — top administrators assured me that my academic freedom was protected. Yet my predicament was not easy. Campus police had to monitor my office. Departmental instructions were clear: No one was to provide any strangers with my office hours. I needed police presence at my invited talks at other universities. It all felt surreal — and dangerous.

This is what it’s like to be the target of racist hatred:

Another uppity Nigger. Calling a Nigger a professor is like calling White Black and Wet Dry.

Even the most sophisticated nigger will revert back to their jungle bunny behavior when excited.

You can dress a Nigger up in a suit and tie and they’ll still be Niggers.

This belief that niggers even reason is blatant pseudo-intellectualism.

For these writers, “nigger professor” is an oxymoron. A nigger is a nigger, incapable of reason. Kant, Hegel, and Jefferson each made similar claims about black people being bereft of rationality. Perhaps I’m just parroting (as Hume said of black people) what I’ve already heard. I’m just a nigger who dared to reason, only to discover that reason is white.

Then entire article can be read here.

 

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