A&M Professor responds to criticism, says life has been threatened

Published: May. 12, 2017 at 4:37 PM CDT
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The Texas A&M Professor under fire this week for comments he made during a podcast interview several years ago says his life has been threatened by white supremacists.

Dr. Tommy J Curry posted the following message on Friday to his Facebook page:
I want to take a moment to thank everyone for their support of me and my family. Over the last several days, I have had my life threatened by white supremacists who have claimed to know where I live. They have called me a monkey, an ape, a feral beast, and a boy. I have been threatened to be lynched and mutilated. Several white women have claimed that I am a rapist. Many people may dislike my work on Black males and may find my claims somewhat extreme, but what explains the horrid demonstration that the nation is now witnessing. A 5 minute segment entertaining that Foxx's comments should be taken within their historical frame seems to warrant the most anti-Black misandrist stereotypes against me and demonstrates the very real danger of anti-Black racism for Black people in universities. Our degrees do not protect us or afford us any of the respect offered to our peers. I again thank everyone for their support and help. It means so much to my family and I.

On Wednesday, Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young issued a written statement concerning the issue. He called Dr. Curry's comments "disturbing."

In the interview, Dr. Tommy Curry says he wants to talk about "killing white people in context." He goes on to discuss racism in America, and makes reference to comments made by actor Jamie Foxx about his character killing white people after filming the movie "Django Unchained."

On Thursday, KBTX's Jessica Gruenling spoke with several of Curry's colleagues at Texas A&M, who defended him and his comments.

Dr. Curry responded to our interview requests via email on Friday. Here are his answers to our questions.

-What do you think about the way people have reacted to your comments on the radio show?

Answer: Dreher's recent retraction of his original position, saying plainly that I was not suggesting white people should be killed, shows that the reactionary responses and death threats I received are driven by a very narrow ethno-nationalist political agenda. The overwhelming support I have received from fellow academics and the Black and Brown communities across the country reveal that the reaction to my work is more about white racism than what my podcast actually said. For example, Black, Latino/a, and Asian faculty at Texas A&M University have been told by the administration and legislative bodies of Texas that we should not be afraid of having guns on campus. The proponents of campus carry have suggested that the physical presence of guns does not interrupt or deter the process of higher learning. In these conversations, the Second Amendment has been framed as a necessary right and furthermore an idea that maintains armed students make society and campuses safer. Now I make the same argument regarding the history of Black civil rights movements where Black Americans such as T.Thomas Fortune, Ida B. Wells, Robert F. Williams and the Black Panthers believed that Black Americans rights for equality are more secure when they arm themselves against white Americans who have threatened to lynch, castrate, murder, and rape them, and the very same public argues that I am inciting violence. As I said in the initial conversation five years ago, the hypocrisy of self-defense proponents is that every group has a right to self-defense except historically oppressed groups like Black Americans. My comments are about this HISTORICAL contradiction. Black American's right to defend themselves against white violence has historically been framed as hateful, whereas white American's right self-defense, which is often understood as their need to protect themselves from Blacks, Mexicans, and Muslims, is thought to be constitutional and an exercise of freedom.

-Did you think five years later it would be made into what is has become? Did that shock you that it was dug up?

Answer: I did not. Under the Obama administration there was not this reactionary ethno-nationalism that has been emboldened by the election of Donald Trump. The initial conversation concerning Black American's militant civil rights tradition was well received. It did surprise me that the interview was dug up, but in this political climate where Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous faculty are being hunted by alt-right pundits and right wing ideologues it was bound to happen.

-You were speaking to comments made by Jamie Foxx, what point were you trying to get across?

Answer: Please see the statement above concerning the reactions to my comments.

-Have you turned over the threats to law enforcement?

Answer: I have. It is my understanding that every death threat will be forwarded to the appropriate authorities and prosecuted as felonies.

-Have you heard from President Young since his statement?

Answer: I have not heard anything from President Young or any administrators since the president released his letter. I believe that Young's letter has firmly demonstrated where he and many Aggies get their news. The only venues suggesting that I am advocating violence are websites run by known white supremacists and felons. The venues defending my research and academic freedom are from all corners of the world and among the most respected in the academy. While many academics do not in fact agree with my actual research or conclusions, they have defended my right to research these areas and present my findings in public venues as a scholar. In other words, the only people arguing my comments are hateful and inciting violence are white supremacist websites whose readers are calling Black people Niggers, feral animals, savages, and rapists. When did these outlets become the reputable sources of information in institutions of higher learning or among administrators at Texas A&M University?

-Do you have any plans to resign or do you think your job may be in jeopardy?

Answer: I am the first Black full professor in the history of the Department of Philosophy at Texas A&M University. You do not work to become among the youngest full professors in the history of your discipline to resign when white supremacists and ethno-nationalists object to your research in Critical Race Theory and Africana philosophy. I have no reason to believe my tenure is in jeopardy as of yet.

An online petition is also circulating in support of Dr. Curry.