It has come to my attention that the move to rid ourselves of Dr. Watson has taken an uncomfortable turn. While I completely agree with the prevailing complaints made against Watson during his tenure, I was also put off by much of the rhetoric of the anti-Watson campaign. For me, the racial subtext of the debate was a huge turn off. Starting with a discussion of a (draft) letter that called the President, a man with a PhD from one of the most prestigious universities in the United States an “anti-intellectual”; to the personal attacks about the president in front of students; to the assault on the African American clergy (an imperfect group, to say the least, but one who proves to be an all-too-convenient target highlighting all that is corrupt within the black freedom struggle). I was uncomfortable. It was also not lost on me that the tenured African American faculty has not taken the lead in much of the movement against the Watson regime.
I thought this needed to change and, in spite of my reservations, I assured a colleague that I would consider a more active role. I thought about what I could do all morning. Before I made any solid commitments, I sought counsel from those I trusted. What I heard disturbed me and prompted this post. I was told by more than one person about an exchange between a junior faculty member and another faculty member working to remove Watson. In this exchange, the junior faculty was told (and I am paraphrasing here) that the black faculty was “chicken-shit” for not actively calling for Watson’s ouster. How about that “chicken shit”?
This exchange reminded me of a famous exchange where Malcolm X famously asked in a television interview, "what do you call an educated negro with a B.A. or an M.A., with a B.S., or a PhD?" The answer? "You call him a nigger, because that is what the white man calls him, a nigger." Now, I am not going to go as far as to accuse my colleague of using such a vile word as there is no evidence that he did. Nor am I willing to posit that this notion was driving this attack on my fellow black faculty members. What I am charging, however, is that such sentiment is both paternalistic and divisive. Black intellectuals, as Malcolm argued, have been among groups who have constantly had to prove our worth within the academy. In too many cases, no matter what they did, their efforts, degrees, opinions were degraded in the ivory tower. It still goes on and it’s too bad that this seems to going on here.
The way you chose to frame your frustration was discriminatory, distracting, and bordered on race-baiting. Your use of race to hold African American faculty to a higher standard is analogous to the classic trope of the field slave versus house slave. Black faculty who choose to either not participate, or worse, disagree with YOU, apparently are brain-washed and, by extension, part of the problem. What’s ironic is that, we as faculty, have criticized the Watson camp for dodging culpability by resorting to name-calling and innuendo to disparage their enemies and YOU have done the same thing. I have shared my opinions about this process. Have you even bothered to survey all us chickens to ask why we do not speak out? Maybe, just maybe, it is exactly this attitude that keeps us on the sidelines. And some of you ask why I do not participate!
How dare you insult an entire community, with the same credentials as you, and imply that we, they, I don’t get it. How dare you?!? Who made you the king of common sense? Would you insult the Latino faculty? I haven’t seen many of them at the anti-Watson phalanx. What insults await them? I can only imagine what you call the white faculty members who refuse to speak out against Watson. I’m not sure but, we, they, and I get chicken shit! You, my friend, owe EVERY African American faculty member on this campus an apology. However, I would settle for making amends to the aforementioned junior faculty member whom was insulted to his face. I can tell you this: such statements will guarantee that I, a card-carrying-member of the chicken shit coalition, will continue to stay on the sidelines.
Too often during this campaign black folk who choose to campaign behind the scenes are either chastised for not speaking out or falsely accused of being a Watson apologist for merely asking a question regarding protest rhetoric. If I don’t agree with you then I am your enemy, right? I know the answer to this one because I asked it on one another occasion. The answer, of course, was “yes”. My question to my colleague is “who died and made you keeper of my indignation?”
Corday likes to frame the activities occurring on campus in historical context. I think this is a good idea because, as a historian, I think that protest movements can learn much by studying the predecessors. In that vein, I would like to include my own example from history. In the years of the French Revolution the Committee of Public Safety was de facto government of the new France and assumed its role of protecting the newly established republic against foreign attacks and internal rebellion. The power of the Committee peaked between August 1793 and July 1794. In December 1793 the entire power of government come to rest in the Committee and a virtual dictatorship was established. To defend France and suppress internal uprisings, the Committee raised fourteen armies, while to ensure supplies the Committee instituted a partial system of maximum prices and fixed wages. To repress domestic opposition, it instituted the Reign of Terror, in which those deemed enemies of the revolution were executed with the guillotine. Now, we are insulted!
I want to make this clear, I am a union man. I come from a union family. Watson’s disregard for us as workers is immoral and his violations of federal law (his attempts of suppressing free speech) and alleged state ethic laws with the employment of his romantic partners are egregious and he should be removed from his post. He is, in sum, the wrong man, for the wrong job, at the wrong time. I have never wavered on my position here. However, I will always be a race man, first and foremost. Anyone who finds it that easy to insult the entire body of African American intellectuals on this campus is not, and will NEVER be, okay with me. If you are going to be a leader of a movement and fight this good fight, be sure to remember who you are fighting for. Until that time, I’ll keep watching from the cheap seats.
This just in: In the latest development, now we have GRADUATE STUDENTS insulting tenured FACULTY on the blog! I've seen enough. APATHETIC he says? How about tired of have our integrity questioned?