We have been discussing the racist tweets of Saida Grundy, an incoming assistant professor of sociology and African-American studies at Boston University, who used twitter to denounce white men as the central problem at universities and described how she tries not to do business with white people. After an outcry from alumni, Boston University president Robert Brown expressed “disappointment” with her statements and Grundy herself apologized for what she called “indelicate” wording. The response has been withering with many saying that few would view the comments “indelicate” if a white professor encouraged people not to buy things from black people or calling black males as the problem on colleges. She now stands accused of a fairly unhinged exchange with a white woman who expressed her personal feelings over an article attacking actress Patricia Arquette for her call at the Oscars for equal pay for women.
Grundy is now accused of a new exchange with a white woman which combined race and rage in a particularly troubling way on Facebook. The other woman was Maghan Chamberlin who is a rape victim and wrote about her personal reaction to a controversial article on race.
First to the context of the article. Chamberlin was reacting to a screed by Grio writer Blue Telusma who found it terribly offensive that Patricia Arquette had given the following words at the Academy Awards in accepting her Oscar in February 2015. Here is what Arquette said (which is news to me because I would rather drink molten lead than watch the Oscars):
To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights! It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!. . .
It’s time for women. Equal means equal. The truth is the older women get, the less money they make. The highest percentage of children living in poverty are in female-headed households. It’s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and we don’t. One of those superior court justices said two years ago in a law speech at a university that we don’t have equal rights for women in America, and we don’t because when they wrote Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So the truth is even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface there are huge issues at play that really do affect women. It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for — to fight for us now!
That triggered a supernova in Telasum who called it another example of “feminism segregation” and “b.s.” Telasum decides herself as someone who spends her time writing “thoughtful op-eds” while resisting white feminism. She insisted the feminists were trying to assert equality as victims of our society and that was unacceptable:
And before you say “But, Blue, she said women not just white women,” let me be blunt: If you say black people need to stand up for you – that means you are asking every person in the room who is both black and a woman to choose her gender over her race in order to suit your agenda. It’s a very subtle form of feminist segregation that I’ve heard about for a few years now. And it’s complete b.s.
Who does she think nursed and looked after all of those white children during the slave era? Did she somehow miss the last 400 years of race relations? Does she not notice who the nannies are when she takes her kids to the park? Society has made it all too clear that not all women are created equal. So to ask the women who are below you on the food chain to once again lift you up is fifty shades of “You got some nerve.” . . .
Black feminists all over the world have written horror stories about how, when dealing with white feminists, they are expected to compartmentalize their blackness and put it away — while fighting on behalf of their womanhood. That ridiculous (and ironically misogynistic) expectation from their white feminist counterparts amounts to what feels like friendly fire; you’re basically being discriminated against by the very person standing next to you in the fight for equality.
Ok, that is the article that led Chamberlin to react in a very personal way. Chamberlin posted the following statement on a Facebook site run by Frank W. Miller, an exchange later taken down according to Fox News: “I LITERALLY cry and lose sleep over this,” Chamberlin wrote, adding she had been raped as a child and felt that: “what this article did was tell me that I’m not aloud (sic) to ask for help… Because I am a WHITE woman… So when I read this article… you do understand what that does to me, right? It kills me . . . ”
As an academic and a blogger, I would view such a posting as helpful and allowing for a passionate but insightful exchange on both sides. This is an interesting social and political and historical question. However, a person who identified herself as “Sai Grundy” responded on Feb. 25th by attacking Chamberlin and mocking her expression of pain:
“’I literally cry’…. While we literally die . . . try this article. A white woman explaining this issue to other white women . . . who manages NOT to cry while doing it!”
Chamberlin responded by writing “No really. I got it. You can take your claws out, thanks.”
That causes Grundy to explode and accuse Chamberlin of playing the victim in response to her insisting that she and others were facing greater victimization:
“^^THIS IS THE S**T I AM TALKING ABOUT. WHY DO YOU GET TO PLAY THE VICTIM EVERY TIME PEOPLE OF COLOR AND OUR ALLIES WANT TO POINT OUT RACISM. my CLAWS?? Do you see how you just took an issue that WASNT about you, MADE it about you, and NOW want to play the victim when I take the time to explain to you some s**t that is literally $82,000 below my pay grade? And then you promote your #whitegirltears like that’s some badge you get to wear… YOU BENEFIT FROM RACISM. WE’RE EXPLAINING THAT TO YOU and you’re vilifying my act of intellectual altruism by saying i stuck my “claws” into you?”
Chamberlin against responds, in a far more measured fashion: “I am choosing to ‘exit’ this conversation, You don’t know me. I don’t know you. It’s really as simple as that.”
Even that does not sit well with Grundy who taunts “go cry somewhere. since that’s what you do”:
YOU DONT HAVE TO KNOW ME. what you SHOULD know is that you don’t know more about this issue than margenalized women. And instead of entering this conversation with an iota of humility about that, you have made it a celebration of your false sense of victimization. no [sic] go cry somewhere. snce that’s what you do.’
Chamberlin responded: “Will do.”
However, Grundy was not done. She then posted: “am I mocking her tears or am I saying that her tears are meaningless displays of emotions because they don’t reflect at ALL an intention to understand the issue from the prospective (sic) of women of color or queer women.” She then adds “my name is *Sai*, but you can call me Dr. Grundy.”
As with her earlier public statements, I find Grundy’s view to be deeply troubling and overtly racist. However, I still believe that they are protected speech. I do believe that such comments could have been considered (and should have been considered) at her hiring. I would have reservations about the intellectual and professional approach of a candidate who responded in such an intolerant fashion. I would certainly want to question the candidate about her approach to students and colleagues in light of such past positions. However, she was hired and I have considerable problem with firing academics because they take controversial positions, even positions with both sexist and racist overtones. As I explained yesterday in the case of the Duke professor, It is a dangerous and slippery slope. The greatest problem is that the uncertain standard creates a chilling effect on academics, particularly untenured academics in what views will be tolerated. In the academic world, such uncertainty can be devastating and strikes at the very heart of the academic mission.
Various sites have been organized to support Grundy like “StandWithSaida.”
What do you think?