A Florida school already facing a strong backlash on the heels of its inclusion of a “White Racism” class is at the center of a stronger wave of anger. Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) recently added armed police officers to keep watch on the class, which explores the impact of white nationalism on social norms in America — and not everyone is happy over the “radical idea.”
News-Press, a subsidiary of USA Today, published an “ominous” headline on Tuesday that is causing ripples on social media: “‘White Racism’ Class at Florida University Stirred Up So Much Controversy That 2 Campus Officers Had to Be on Guard.”
Susan Evans is a spokesperson at FGCU who serves as the school’s chief of staff. She addressed the growing controversy and spoke to media sources on the motivation to hire armed guards to monitor the class on white racism in America. Evans said campus officials made the decision to involve law enforcement out of an abundance of caution due to the sensitivity of the class; discussions of race are historically fraught with mixed emotions, some of which tend to boil over, as Evans acknowledges.
“We have prepared for any possible distractions related to Tuesday’s first class of the White Racism course, but we are expecting normal campus civility as our students engage in this and other courses at the spring semester’s start.”
Evans said the course explores a range of topics connected to so-called white racism and its resurgence from a historical perspective. It takes a holistic look at white racism and encourages open discussion about how it has become an integral component of the American experience among classes of people.
As written on the Florida school’s website, the white racism class was developed to “interrogate the concept of race; examine the racist ideologies, laws, policies, and practices that have operated for hundreds of years to maintain white racial domination over those racialized as non-white; and discuss ways to challenge white racism and white supremacy toward promoting an anti-racist society where whiteness is not tied to greater life chances.” Still, some are not embracing it from a fundamental perspective, as talked about in the video below.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) January 9, 2018
The addition of the course to the school’s spring semester offerings wasn’t taken lightly; school officials realized not only its potential to pique the interests of those interested in it from the concept of academia, but also its tendency to attract a negative side. Still, they reasoned that a class with a focus on the rise of white supremacy was needed to not only build awareness but also to encourage debates for arriving at viable solutions.
Ted Thornhill has become the de facto face of the course on white racism. He is an assistant professor of sociology at FGCU and is the lead instructor for the class. Ever since news broke of its addition to the course lineup, Thornhill has received a steady wave of “disturbing emails” and other forms of communication from those who expressed opposition to the class.
— The Root (@TheRoot) January 9, 2018
Furthermore, there have apparently been reports from students enrolled in the class over matters of safety. Law enforcement officials have been apprised of the alleged threats from the public.
“I think most of us don’t anticipate there being any unrest or protest or anything like that. But it’s more of a prudent measure to have law enforcement present just in case,” Thornhill said about the addition of police officers. He refers to those making threats as “rabid racists.”
A heated discussion is taking place on the Facebook feed about the white racism class. Some welcome the addition of a class about white racism and its connection to the recent surge in publicized white nationalist events. However, a large number of readers are up in arms over the idea of the class and the addition of armed police officers at the university.
One person, who identified as a Trump supporter, suggested that activist groups like Black Lives Matter and charges of racism (whites against blacks) have gotten out of hand and are threatening democracy. They celebrated Trump’s victory and his quest to revive the country. “Thank God for Trump,” the reader added.
Robert Turner wrote, “Isn’t that why they have the NAACP chapter in all the university across America. I want to know when they are going to start a Black Racism class for all the blacks that hate white people because of the color of there [sic] skin.”
Halmsted Cal wrote, “Stop blaming white people. Stop killing each other at horrific rates. Stop leaving your wives to raise their children alone. Change the culture. It’s entirely culture. No one is oppressing black people. There is no systemic racism. Take personal responsibility and drop the victim mentality.”
Phil DiPrima wrote, “Just remember: If it wasn’t for white MEN taking the initiative for our country, we wouldn’t have one. Everything that we have today in America came from them. Now go and teach how racist we are.”
Jerry Pait Every wrote, “African American in this country should get on their knees every day and thank God they had an ancestor who was a slave. Otherwise, you’d be living in a mud hut and walking five miles a day to get clean water.”
Matt Sinnsel, wrote, “So if this class is allowed then a white person should teach about all the racist stuff black people say and do that would be fair but I’m sure democrats liberals and the pc people would say otherwise since they have their head up their butt.”
Thornhill said that while the white racism class is attracting a bevy of negativity, the need to have such a course far outweighs the fallout from its addition. He also applauds the efforts by the school to have police officers on standby in the event of unrest. However, he is unsure if the officers will remain beyond the current semester.