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Faculty panel talks white nationalism in U.S.

In wake of Charlottesville events, U. plans panel as part of Reaffirming Values lecture series

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A faculty panel discussed the existence of white nationalism in the United States in the wake of Charlottesville in front of a packed Salomon 101 Wednesday evening. The panel was moderated by President Christina Paxson P’19.

The panel did not aim to discuss specifics of or the political response to the Charlottesville attack but rather focused on exploring “contextualized issues,” Paxson said. Seven faculty members shared their perspectives followed by a question-and-answer session.

“White supremacy is not marginal, or leftover fringe ideology in the United States, nor is it limited to the extremist display such as what we saw in Charlottesville,” said Tricia Rose, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, associate dean of the faculty for special initiatives and professor of Africana studies. “In fact, most white supremacy is very civil,” she said.

Assistant Professor of History Emily Owens said the “march on Charlottesville relies on” a memory based on a fantasy created by American slaveholders of a perfect system of enslavement.

The anti-Semitism at the march, such as swastikas and the slogan “blood and soil,” displayed hatred against black and brown people as well as Jewish people, Dean of the College Maud Mandel said. Recently, scholars have been more commonly exploring the similarities of the “racial hierarchical formulation” of anti-Semitism, colonialism and Islamophobia, she said.

In light of President Donald Trump’s recent decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Assistant Professor of American Studies Monica Muñoz Martinez addressed the historical marginalization of Mexicans and the need to consider not only how groups are being treated within the United States, but also at its border.

Rose said that Charlottesville was a shock to many Americans despite the realities of systematic and pervasive white supremacy. “It seems to me that we need to focus here on campus in challenging our own curriculum to do a better job teaching us about this” because “education as a whole ultimately marginalizes this kind of conversation.”

In response to a question by Lily Gordon ’21 about the University’s role and approach to negotiations with the Pokanoket Nation regarding the contentious Bristol land, Paxson said that “we are trying to work very sincerely” to devise a plan that works for not only the encamped group but also for other tribes for whom the Bristol property is sacred. Disagreements on whether other tribes have claims to this land has been a roadblock in negotiating efforts.

Other panelists included Bonnie Honig, interim director of the Pembroke Center and professor of modern culture and multimedia and political science, John Tomasi, director of the Political Theory Project and professor of political science and natural theology and Michael Vorenberg, associate professor of history. The talk is part of the lecture series “Reaffirming University Values,” sponsored by the Offices of the President and Provost, which began last year.

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