Last week, Breitbart News correspondent and Bucknell University student Tom Ciccotta revealed that a professor at the college, Marcellus Andrews, had called on students to “impose a steep and lasting price” on Ciccotta and other conservative students, who he branded “fascists” due to their hosting of MILO on campus last year.
Andrews, who also wrote of “rearranging a few faces” and “snapping a few bones” when he engaged in “physical” combat with fascists on campus in his younger days, later claimed that he was not encouraging violence.
We have published Andrews’ email to students in full below, so that readers may judge for themselves.
I ask you indulgence for my lousy prose. I write poorly when I am upset (and perhaps always) but I must write to you all now.
I am 60 year old black American man who has spent most to 40 years shuttling between college and university campuses on the on hand and the economic and racial zones of human sacrifice that are the bottom of the American system on the other. There has never been a time when people of color (from now on I will simply use the term non-whites), Jews, Muslims, gay men and women, enlightened white folks or, frankly, enlightened people of any sort have been welcome on any campus. All campuses in this country have had a dominant racial, ethnic, and cultural identity that seeks hegemony, no matter how hard an administration or enlightened minority tries to promote and expand the reach of the “open society” into all the venues of an academic community – making the “community” seem a bit of a sham. That dominant identity will, if necessary, resort to discrimination, violence, intimidation, humiliation and degradation as tactics to sustain its position. But it is more than fine to be hated by fascists, racists, misogynists, or religious and sexual bigots if we know how to fight them, which includes how to see them for the pathetic beings that they are. Of course, it would be better if an administration could protect us from harm, but administrations cannot do that. An administration’s ntent is irrelevant because protection is not possible. But we can more than protect ourselves and in that way deliver severe, perhaps crippling intellectual and ethical blows to those who hate and abuse us.
A college or university administration in Bucknell’s position cannot protect outcasts, not least black students, because its primary missions are completely contradictory. On the one hand Bucknell, like any other elite place, is supposed to be a community of scholars — teachers and students — who pursue knowledge by ridding themselves of all encumbrances to clear thinking and truth telling in all areas of human endeavor. On the other hand, Bucknell is also, and perhaps primarily, a sanctuary for the sons and daughters of well educated rich folks — right now they are white but that is going to change over the next fifty years — who want strong limits on the corrosive effects that reason has on any and all assertions of superiority for any racial, tribal identity or religious identity. The acid bath of reason that is supposed to be the point of a college or university is inconsistent with the demand that a college can be a safe place because reason and safety are not usually compatible.
One cannot be surprised if an administration at an elite American academic institution cannot really address problems connected to the fundamental opposition between different tribal and racial identities because a college or university is, at the end of the day, an institution that relies on the good wishes of its supporters — donors, trustees, and families that serve as the primary source of future students — who tend to favor their own tribal identity over reason and science and enlightenment. A college or university is an intergenerational deal wherein each generation of students is groomed in ways that enhance the mission of the institution by a prior generation of supporters and enthusiasts in light of the long dominant tribal and racial identity of the place. If one is a member of an outcast group, you are not among those the dominant identity has in mind, even if the fundamental contradiction between reason and tribalism caused Bucknell to allow you into the community on condition that you accept your inferior status. However, this contradiction between what an academic institution is and what it should be offers outcasts a set of incredibly powerful tools to create a safe space for themselves.
Dominant identities are fragile things, held in place by the implicit agreements between intellectually and ethically weak people who need to bully others by pretending that there is such a thing as forms of human being that are superior to others by virtue of color or gender or sexual orientation or political outlook or any other dodge from the demands of reason, evidence, scientific method and the anvil of intellectual scrutiny. That fragility is currently reflected in hilarious complaints about political correctness or the rather nasty act of inviting an avowed fascist to (Yianopolous) campus as an exercise in free speech. The fascist should be allowed to speak —even on Bucknell’s dime — but the targets of his abuse need to be able to impose a steep and lasting price on the racists and fascists that invited him — since “free speech” is the demand that government refrain from sanctioning speech, not a general principle that vicious speech is without a social price in general. But that fragility is also reflected in the demand for an administration to make things better when safety is not something an administration can deliver.
If the outcasts at Bucknell, like the black folks I am born to, remind themselves that though they are not now and can never be truly welcomed by those who insist on their superiority at our expense, or by any elite college or university right now, we can defeat these silly though perhaps dangerous people if we remain enlightened and, well, use Bucknell as a training site to develop and practice intellectual and social (and in my day physical) combat skills that will serve us well in the wider American scene. Indeed, if we all take a step back from the current moment and realize that there is infinitely less to the election of Donald Trump than meets the eye, we will realize that the current moment is the beginning of the death rattle of white supremacy (which is not very supreme much less strong), male dominance, gender feudalism and sexual bigotry in the United States. If we all just think clearly about our personal histories as well as the history of the United States, we realize that conflict on campus is just a reflection of larger battles in society, that there is no sanctuary, no safety, no place where we will be free of bigotry and the implicit or explicit violence that comes with it. If we are smart, brave, tough, clever and retain our sense of humor we can create safe spaces for ourselves and scare our enemies to death with our brilliance and our refusal to give in to their sadism. These people need bottoms to abuse; if we refuse to play that role but instead learn how to deliver crippling intellectual and ethical blows when we are attacked (but only when attacked) we will not only be fine but will extend the record of resistance to abuse that enlightened folks have written over the past couple of centuries. The current moment, whether nationally or on campuses, is far less dangerous than the Reagan years — where racial violence on campus was much more intense if unacknowledged — and where outcasts had to find ways to defend themselves from harm while achieving great things under severe pressure.
I have seen outcast men and women spat upon, beaten, injured, intimidated and humiliated by on elite campuses from the mid 1970’s to this day. I had the unique experience of having a Nobel quality economist at Penn tell students in his class, including myself and a few other black students, that he “hated niggers because his wife was raped by a one of those black monkeys”. This man was, to our knowledge, never disciplined by the Penn’s administration, though one among us in that class had the self-respect, toughness and sheer nerve to ask this man, in class, whether he was capable of doing his job and grading everyone fairly, without regard to their color. He said that he could do that, and did so. When I was a graduate student at Yale a student political coalition then known as The Party of the Right used to have “nigger hunting and nigger hurting” parties where groups of young conservative white men would go around shouting and trying to humiliate black students, among others. One of these gangs even urinated on a few of us — drunk fascists tend to do that sort of thing — with most unfortunate consequences for themselves as the group of dark men “graced” by their pee were, well, extremely skilled at combat and used our skills to rearrange a few faces, snap a few bones and thereby change the behavior of some folks.
I will say in passing that those of us who were treated to the urine of believers in their status as members of the superior race were all born of killing zones and had survived same, with a couple of us being Vietnam vets and the rest of us learning very effective combat skills in those most effective training grounds: New York, Philly, LA, DC, NOLA and Chicago. We were prepared to defend ourselves and retaliate with skill and, frankly style, when we were attacked (one Party of the Right-er brought a gun with him, only to see that gun used to pistol whip him — it does not do to bring a weapon and threaten people when you do not know what you are doing).
So the essential question for outcasts at Bucknell now is this: what is to be done when an administration simply cannot provide effective protection to outcasts but outcasts have all kinds of weapons of self defense and even powerful offense lying around waiting to be developed? As far as I can tell, Bucknell’s administration would discipline a professor who spoke of “raping nigger monkeys” (though I should hope not fire that person because it is essential for dark students to test their combat skills against such a racist nimrod . . . . we have to be able to point to him or her and say “that is what a racist looks like” when racism deniers do their thing). And I am pretty sure that a “nigger hunting and nigger hurting” gang would be invited to leave Bucknell — though I fully expect a gaggle of drunk, fascist fraternity boys (a minority within a minority) to accidentally kill or maim someone someday because these deluded folks never understand the dangers they are playing with until it is much too late.
I hope we all get to a place where we ask administrations to do what they can do — enforce equal opportunities for learning and rules against violence, intimidation (where possible) and other forms of assaultive behavior against people of all colors, classes and genders. But the warfare reflected in the election of Donald Trump is just another (and, honestly, deeply embarrassing) reflection of the conflict in the American system. My job, as an old black teacher in America, is to pass on what I know to the young and threatened, including a vast range of intellectual and ethical (and in my specific case physical) combat skills that have allowed me to carve out a place for myself despite the American hatred of dark folks. Indeed, I would say that there has never been a time in American history where outcasts have been more powerful or had a wider array of effective intellectual (and other) combat techniques at their disposal, nor has there been a time where we can develop these techniques under the conditions of relative safety (as compared to the life away from campus) in confrontation with an enemy that is, frankly, so weak and dumb.
My age and experience tell me that Bucknell’s outcast populations can become the intellectual, academic, and ethical leaders of the place if we simply accept the fact that our well-being cannot be of utmost importance to any administration but that we can, with practice and innovation, effectively defend ourselves. While it is surely true that Bucknell is not for us, we can hijack it and turn it into an enlightened institution (despite its primary mission) if we are in equal measure stoic, smart, playful, tough and remember that many of us, as the descendants of slaves or peons or serfs or abused people from around the world, have survived far worse than the worst of Bucknell (or Trump) with far fewer weapons at hand. To those among us who really do not want to fight or do not like to fight, I am sorry to say that you have no choice, and really never did. I also want to assure you that fighting is a spectacular art form and is also an great deal of fun, once you get the hang of it.
Victory in this conflict is assured, though it will take some time.