Thursday, March 4, 2010

White Towson Prof Fired For Using The N Word

imageNigger is not a part of my vocabulary because it is a hate word.  It’s sole purpose is to reduce the humanity of Blacks and to elevate Whiteness.  There are those that continue to feel that we have moved to a point of being post racial enough that they may say nigger without consequences. Allen Zaruba, a professional artist who was an adjunct professor at Towson University for 12 years recently found out that having a Black stepfather, did not give him permission to use this word.

Zaruba was teaching his Visual Concepts class on Monday, Feb. 22, and during a discussion of "Themes of Contemporary Art," written by Jean Robertson and Craig McDaniel, while reviewing a chapter in the book about identity and the body, he referred to himself as a "nigger on the corporate plantation." He meant this comment to highlight the fact that as an adjunct professor he could be fired at anytime because he did not have the protection of tenure.

Realizing that he may have made an error, he immediately apologized to the class and apologized again the next time the class met.  Despite his apologies he was fired.  After losing his job for clearly engaging in racism, you would think that Zaruba had learned a lesson, but apparently some people simply cannot check their privilege.

Zaruba, who is white, told The Sun that his black stepfather used racial terms freely, and that, “I never quite got the horror of the word.”

“Towson University is a wonderful university with a great faculty and wonderful students,” he said, noting he loved the school and would be honoured to get his job back if it is offered.

But there is “a deep fear” of the word he used, he said, even though it is often used freely by students and is heard on the airwaves.

“Why do we turn a word into such a bomb?” he said. “We’re being run by fear.

“Fear is smoke and mirrors. It was justifiable at one time in our history, but we don’t have slaves anymore. America is moving in a very positive direction.”

When fear dominates and words prompt witch hunting, “I have to ask myself, 'what is happening to our educational system?' ” he said.

That’s right, a White man complaining that he cannot use the word nigger because others do it.  Poor, poor oppressed baby.  Never mind that it continues to cause pain to untold millions, his speech is to be privileged above the basic humanity of others.

What is happening to the education system is that it is teaching students to think critically about the words they use and the systems that they support.  Language is a powerful tool because it conveys our understanding of the world. 

When Zaruba complains about being run by fear, he is really advocating  an end to so-called pc speech.  The end of slavery in no way means that systemic racism has come to an end; just as Barack Obama does not represent a post racial world. No matter the positive gains of African Americans, in every sphere that we examine they continue to lag behind Whites due to racism. The end of slavery and the civil rights movement has not resulted in true equality.

Zaruba cannot conceive of the ways in which racism effects Blacks because he is a White man who has failed to acknowledge his undeserved White privilege.   It is not up to him to decide what is and is not offensive and for him to even suggest that we should just move on, exemplifies his complete and utter failure to consider his role in maintaining our current system of imbalance. 

Instead of using the interview to truly apologize, he spent his time justifying his language.   There are those that would say that what he said was racist but since I am not a believer in mincing words, I will simply declare him a racist.  If you insist on using words that are clearly offensive and then employ the whole but things are getting better tripe as a defence, then you are a racist; don’t pass go, don’t collect two hundred dollars. Your Black friends or family members do not give you some kind of ghetto pass to display your ignorance and your privilege to the world.  If you don’t believe me, just ask John Mayer how many Black people think he is great today.

Some words cannot be reclaimed and simply need to disappear from our every day language.  They certainly can never be used by the group who coined the term in the first place because emanating from their body, it will always carry the hate and disgust that it was originally meant to convey.  To see a White educated man complain about being oppressed because he cannot use a hate word only reifies the ways in which Whiteness continues to refuse to acknowledge the degree to which it is specifically determined to maintain a White supremacist state.  Welcome to post-racial America y’all.

H/T Gus via Gchat