Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Dear blog readers,

This is mostly a confession of my failure to live by my own beliefs but also an invitation for you to join me in a celebration.

I retired from teaching at Chicago State last June after 29 years as an adjunct and then unit A faculty member. During that time I tried to serve the university and students in many ways, as a teacher, as a philosopher and writer, and as an organizer of colloquia and seminars (I initiated the Arts and Sciences Forum in 1987 and coordinated it for eight years), but mostly as a principled communist teacher/activist. I felt these contributions deserved recognition from the university through the award of the status Professor Emeritus (an honorary title which, at most schools, is routinely awarded to retiring faculty). So I submitted a portfolio requesting that status. Having that title would be helpful to me in the future as I continue to write and publish.

During the summer and fall, thousands protested the racist shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. It occurred to me to write a post for the blog comparing the racist killing of Michael Brown with the well-documented (on this blog) abuse of students such as Willie Preston and Jokari Miller and faculty such as Phillip Beverly by the Watson administration: black students and faculty were being singled out for special attack. Watson did not attack white faculty or students in the same way. I was planning to entitle the post “Two Faces of American Racism” comparing the racist killing of a young black man by a white cop to the racist attacks on black students and faculty at Chicago State. Many recognize the racism of Michael Brown’s killing: a young black man is killed by a white cop. But the racist abuse of black people in segregated all-black or mostly black environments by black cops, black jail guards, black judges, and black university administrators is both more common and more insidious: it is harder to oppose this racism. Why? Most people won’t call it racism, even though it is. They think anti-black racism has to come from someone who is not black.

I never wrote and published that post. Why not? I made excuses that I had moved on and it was up to the people still at CSU to fight Watson’s racism. But the real reason is that I did not want to mess up my chances of getting Professor Emeritus.

Then I read Bob’s post including the press release from Willie and Brittany’s attorney Rima Kapitan (April 3rd “Wayne Watson Unscripted: Press Release from Willie Preston's Attorney”). The post and press release summarized some of the content of a discussion between Jokari Miller and Wayne Watson: Watson “belittles Miller’s activism and academic record.” In response to Miller’s criticism of Watson’s attack on Preston, Watson says, “Stop trying to save every damn little puppy that falls off the curb. Puppies are important. We need to save them. But get yourself in the position where you can own the curb…. I’m building curbs.” He acknowledges that Preston’s expulsion from Chicago State had nothing to do with the [false] charges of harassment by Angela Henderson. He admits Preston was expelled for criticizing the administration. He justifies his racist actions against Preston by saying he was “trying to save a damn university” (actually tending to destroy it).

When I read this I realized that my failure to post about two faces of U.S. racism was wrong. Did I really want recognition from such a person, someone who would expel a black student because he criticized the administration and then brag about it? Why did I want recognition from such a racist? My silence was wrong. I apologize to all for not writing that post back in September.

I have tried to live a principled life as a communist. Obviously I have not completely succeeded. I believe there are others who have remained silent because of fear of what Watson might do to them or, like me, in hope that by remaining silent they could receive a reward or benefit of some sort from Watson. If so, I encourage you to think about this: what sort of person do you wish to be? Someone who goes along with evil and racist injustice to get some crumb of a reward? Or someone who stands for anti-racist principle?

I made the wrong choice. In writing this post, I am trying to correct it. I do not want the status of Professor Emeritus if it is conferred on me by Wayne Watson. That vile racist can keep it.

Some of you may know that my wife Mary and I are moving to California. We are also nearing the 50th anniversary of our marriage. There is a party to celebrate our anniversary and to say farewell to our many friends and colleagues who have given meaning to our time in Chicago. I would like all of you to join Mary and me on May 17th at 4 pm at Memorial Park in Blue Island in the Pavilion at the south end of the park on Highland Avenue at the corner of Walnut (the north end is 127th Street) to celebrate and say farewell. Email me at pgomberg@earthlink.net so that I can send you the Evite invitation.


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