In the wake of the recent presidential election, an outcome largely determined by voters seeking a change from the previous Democratic administration and—let’s be real—a Black family in the White House, we have increased instances of white nationalism.
Although the nation is aware of the reactionary elements being summoned by Donald Trump, none more nefarious than Stephen Bannon, equally menacing to our civil and human rights is the dangerous presence of right wing groups, the so-called alt-right, which we know is nothing more than extremists at the head of the retrenchment gradually emerging in the country.
Now we are told of a “Professor Watch List,” which is reminiscent of a political plague from the McCarthy era, a kind of “Big Brother” is watching you. On this list and under surveillance are college professors who allegedly “discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” This watch list is a project of Turning Point USA, and on its website it proposes to expose professors who promote any ideas inimical to right wing philosophy and politics.
To date, the list includes 200 professors, and to prove it doesn’t discriminate, several of those listed are Black, including Jamaican author and teacher Marlon James, popular activist and attorney Gloria Brown Marshall, noted scholar and prolific author Gerald Horne, and George Yancy, who teaches philosophy at Emory University in Atlanta.
In The New York Times Sunday, Yancy fired off a response to being cited on the list in an op-ed entitled, “I Am a Dangerous Professor.” Yancy invoked George Orwell’s novel “1984” and compared this recent intrusion to Cointelpro, the counter intelligence program devised by the FBI to suppress or eradicate any form of Black militancy and to prevent the rise of a “Black Messiah.”
Back then, the FBI was primarily targeting the Black Panther Party, and it’s rather ironic that all of this is occurring on the anniversary of the assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark by the Chicago police in 1969.
“I was engulfed by a feeling of righteous indignation, even anger,” Yancy wrote. “The list maker would rather that we run in shame after having been called out. Yet I was reminded of the novel ‘The Bluest Eye,’ in which Toni Morrison wrote that anger was better than shame: ‘There is a sense of being in anger. A reality and presence. An awareness of worth.’ The anger I experienced was also—in the words the poet and theorist Audre Lorde used to describe the erotic—‘a reminder of my capacity for feeling.’ It is that feeling that is disruptive of the Orwellian gestures embedded in the Professor Watch List. Its devotees would rather I become numb, afraid and silent. However, it is the anger that I feel that functions as a saving grace, a place of being.”
Obviously, professor Yancy is not about to be cowed and silenced, and is apparently honored to be designated a “dangerous” teacher. “Well, if it is dangerous to teach my students to love their neighbors, to think and rethink constructively and ethically about who their neighbors are, and how they have been taught to see themselves as disconnected and neoliberal subjects, then, yes, I am dangerous, and what I teach is dangerous,” he concluded.
We are sure to hear from others on the list, and it won’t be surprising if they express sentiments in keeping with Yancy’s. In fact, we may hear from a few who may be disappointed that they are not on the list.